Caught in the Web Indiana Pacers blog: Hibbert could join George on All-Star Weekend

Hibbert could join George on All-Star Weekend

Feb. 8, 2012 - Paul George will be heading to Orlando for the NBA All-Star Weekend.

He soon may be joined by Roy Hibbert as the Pacers reap the spoils of victory.

George's selection today to the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge (which replaces the rookie-sophomore game) ensures the Pacers will have their first representative in the midseason festivities since 2009, when Danny Granger was an Eastern Conference All-Star reserve and finished fifth in the 3-point contest.

George could also participate in either the slam-dunk or 3-point shootout, but those participants have not yet been announced.

Hibbert could well become the franchise's 11th NBA All-Star when the reserves are announced Thursday evening. The fourth-year center is averaging 13.8 points, 9.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocked shots and shooting .509 from the field.

They aren't jaw-dropping numbers, by any means. And if the Pacers were in the middle of the pack, they wouldn't warrant a second look. But with the team holding one of the top five records in the league at 17-7, Hibbert could benefit from the team's success.

"We're a team in every sense of the word," Coach Frank Vogel said. "We make sacrifices. We've got a number of guys on the team that if they were playing on a lesser team could be more of a factor and put up more All-Star-type numbers.

"I get the feeling, though, that coaches (who vote to select the reserves) this year in particular are going to recognize teams like Philadelphia and ourselves, teams that have guys that may not have prototypical All-Star numbers but have led to a great deal of winning. I think they're going to reward that."

The Pacers have two former All-Stars in Granger and David West (who made the Western Conference team twice while with the Hornets). Granger is the team's leading scorer (18.1) but an early season slump kept his overall numbers down and effectively eliminated his candidacy. West is averaging 11.5 points and 6.7 rebounds as he continues to rebuild strength and confidence on the comeback from knee surgery.

"Other than Dwight Howard, I can't tell you who's a better center (in the East)," Granger said of Hibbert. "I think it would be awesome for him as a young big man in this league. It's an awesome time, a lot of fun."

Hibbert isn't exactly obsessed by the possibility. He said he didn't even know he was being considered a candidate until some friends sent him text messages to that effect last week.

"I'm not one of those guys where if they don't make it I'm going to make a big fuss about it," he said. "I don't read the media stuff, I just like to stay focused. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, I'm going to go away with my fiance, recharge the batters and get ready to get going again."

With 10 double-doubles, Hibbert has made consistent, relentless progress in each of his NBA seasons. He has added strength, cut down on foul trouble and learned how to better establish himself as a post presence both offensively and defensively. He is very much the team's anchor inside.

Making the All-Star team could be an enormous boost in confidence for Hibbert, who has struggled with that in the past.

"Everything we've built here, what I've try to do with our team has sort of been a confidence-building approach, building on small successes," Vogel said. "Obviously he's had success to earn the rotation and his numbers have gone up, his field goal percentage has gone up. If he's able to earn this type of recognition I think it's just going to help his confidence level, help his swagger and help his ability to produce at an even higher level."

The flip side of the Pacers' share-the-wealth offensive balance could be a lack of individual recognition because the system is not built to funnel through any one or two players but rather to have the ball wind up in the hands of the open man -- regardless who it may be. All five starters average in double figures and six players have led the team in scoring in various games this season.

Though part of Vogel would like to see his players get as much rest as possible during the All-Star Weekend (Feb. 24-26), a bigger part would enjoy seeing them rewarded for the sacrifices they've made.

"I'm really excited for Paul,” Vogel said. "He has completely earned this honor with tremendous work ethic, a commitment to improve and a refreshing approach to the game. It's great to see a young, talented player like him be as coachable as he is. He truly is a rising star both offensively and defensively."

The participants in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge were selected by the NBA’s assistant coaches, with each team submitting one ballot.

For the first time, rookies and sophomores will be mixed together on teams. TNT analysts Charles Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal will serve as the general managers of the two opposing teams and draft their rosters Feb. 17 at 7 p.m. on NBA TV.

The game itself will be televised Friday, Feb. 24, at 9 p.m. on TNT.

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