Tyler Hansbrough taking on a double-team against Portland
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Hansbroughs, Hibbert, and... Homework?

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

December 21, 2012

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Q. I Really like your interviews with historical Indiana sports figures.

My question is about Roy Hibbert. It seems a little bit like Roy is occasionally not "all in" ... as in really focused, and has the rare sub-par game. Take the Sacramento game. Roy had a couple great blocks, but he was just 3-9 shooting, had 6 rebounds and 5 personal fouls. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of the Big Fella, I'm just asking if he may lose some focus every once in a while and have an "out of Roy" game instead of his usual dominating games we have become used too over the last couple years.

Can we have "two hour bursts" of the dominating, productive, All-Star Big Fella every night?

Roy is an All Star with huge talent on tap. We love to see that on display.

– Gordon

A. No doubt about it, Gordon, Hibbert has been a disappointment so far. Through 24 games, he's averaging 9.7 points on 39 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 3 blocks while playing 29 minutes per game. Last season he averaged 12.8 points on 50 percent shooting, 8.8 rebounds and 2 blocks.

I don't know if it's a matter of focus, or if he feels pressure from the $58 million contract he signed over the summer, or what. Regardless, this shouldn't be happening. He's in his fifth NBA season, so he should know how to focus on his work. If he could handle the pressure of playing for a new contract last season, he should be able to handle the pressure of having a new contract this season.

I've been told by someone who attended practice throughout training camp that he did not report in good physical condition, as he had in past years, but even if that's true he should be in shape by now. His performance in the win over Philadelphia (19 points, 13 rebounds) was perhaps his best of the season, but he was injured in the next game at Detroit. He shouldn't be out for long, though.

The most puzzling thing about Hibbert's game in my opinion is that he's managed to play all these years without developing a dependable scoring weapon around the basket. No hook shot, no jump hook, no turnaround jumper, just an assortment of awkward, off-balance shots that have little chance of finding their way through the rim. No 7-foot-2 player should be shooting less than 40 percent from the field, as Hibbert is. He would be wise to get with a coach who can help him develop a dependable shot or two, before he hurts himself.

I believe Hibbert is the key to the season. Defensively, the team is very good. West, Hill and George are reliable, offensively, and if Granger can come back near his peak level, the starting lineup will have the potential to to be explosive on offense. But only if Hibbert can provide enough inside scoring to keep defenses honest.

Q. I agree with you a 100% on your latest comments on the Pacers. I am wondering why they don't play their rookies. Other teams play rookies and some of them work out good. The Pacers just seem to let theirs wilt on the bench until some other team takes them and ends up with a pretty good player. A.J. Price comes to mind. Ben Hansbrough has impressed when given a chance and lets face it, D.J. just isn't getting the job done.

– Shirley

A. You wrote this before Hansbrough got his chance against Cleveland last week. It's not unusual for teams, especially good ones, to keep their rookies on the bench. Good teams obviously have a collection of good players and they draft low, so the rookies aren't likely to break in quickly.

I do believe Ben Hansbrough can contribute throughout the season, although Frank Vogel and others claim Augustin has played much better in practice since he was removed from the rotation. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. If Augustin can regain the level at which he played in Charlotte, the Pacers should be solid at point guard.

I don't believe Miles Plumlee and Orlando Johnson are likely to play much this season. They simply aren't as good as the players ahead of them in the rotation, and need time to develop. Their willingness to play in the Development League should help them.

Remember, plenty of Pacers went on to contribute after sedentary rookie seasons. Jeff Foster, the player to whom Plumlee is often compared, played 86 minutes as a rookie. That Pacers team played in the NBA Finals, but the point is the same: rookies usually don't play a lot unless they're high draft picks joining bad teams, or the team they joined has a hole at their position.

Q. I am interested in why Tyler Hansbrough doesn't get more p.t. If they aren't gonna play him, why not trade him? Do Tyler and Vogel have a personality clash? What gives?

Barry

A. The only clashes involving Tyler Hansbrough are the ones he has when he barges into opposing players on the court. Or his teammates, for that matter. Vogel has said he needs to find more playing time for him, but doing that would likely mean less playing time for David West, who has been the team's best player this season.

If Hansbrough can become more consistent, especially with his mid-range jump shot, he could take some of the load off West. It was interesting to see how Tyler responded to brother Ben's promotion to the playing rotation. He was noticeably energized by it, on and off the court. Tyler normally plays in zombie mode, showing no emotion. I've always had the feeling someone could slap him in the face and he'd continue staring off into the distance. Ben's presence, however, seemed to excite him. He jumped to his defense when a Cleveland player caught Ben with an inadvertent elbow, and was giddy about the attention Ben was getting in the locker room after that game.

If Ben getting more playing time brings out the best in Tyler, that will make a major difference.

Q. Do you think the Pacers are overpaying for Roy Hibbert?

– Tommy

A. So far, yes. But we'll have to see how it plays out.

The Pacers faced a major dilemma when they had to decide whether to match the contract Portland offered to Hibbert over the summer. Doing so meant they were destined to overpay him, and drastically overpaying a key player has ruined many a team. The Pacers, however, appeared to have a team capable of winning a playoff series or two given the way last season ended, and letting Hibbert walk would have been a blow to the team and the fans. Who would be their center now, if that had happened?

Hibbert has played better lately. If he can merely match last season's performance level, the team will take a major step forward. His contract will come into play again next summer, however, when David West becomes a free agent. Will the Pacers be able to pay West his market value with the money they've devoted to Hibbert?

Q. A few questions after watching the team:

  1. Danny’s knee. Update? What is the probability of successful recovery from the type of surgery?
  2. Who will be available via free agency for a back-up point guard that would work into the rotation?
  3. Do the Pacers have any former NBA centers (i.e. Jabbar, Hakeem, etc.) ever work with Roy?
  4. What will it cost to resign West?
  5. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, where do you think Paul George is on reaching his consistent playing level game-in and game-out? Is he a Top 50, 25 or even 15 player in the league?

– Dave

A. You're killing me, Dave! This is like a homework assignment! Kidding.

  1. There's no real update on Granger's knee, other than he's still expected back sometime in February. I've asked Donnie Walsh and others have asked Frank Vogel and nobody can say for sure. He's doing more and more on the court and in the weightroom,though, and doesn't show any hints of his injury when he walks around. Knees are delicate parts, though, and impossible to predict.
  2. Giving up on Augustin already, are you? You're not the only one, but he did play well against the Jazz, so perhaps he can get back in the rotation. Still, he's on a one-year contract, so the Pacers will be looking for a backup again next summer, even if he's a candidate again. There's a long list of point guards. The restricted free agents include Jeff Teague, Darren Collison, Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans. The unrestricted free agents include Ben Gordon, Nate Robinson, Jarrett Jack, Jerryd Bayless, Monta Ellis, Jose Calderon, Jamaal Tinsley and A.J. Price. Oh, and Chris Paul, too. Good luck there.
  3. Bill Walton worked with Roy in the summer of 2010, per Larry Bird's request.
  4. Good question. West is paid $10 million this season. He could very well be due for a raise if he stays healthy, which will require the front office to make other moves to be able to fit him into the payroll.
  5. Hard to say about George. He's getting better and better, and he's only 22. He'll obviously continue to improve. He seems awfully determined to become an All-Star and have a great career. If you're asking me to rank him on consistency, I'd have to give him an 8, because he's been consistent lately. If you're asking me to rank him on his talent level, I'd give him a 6 or 7. He won't get dramatically better, but he certainly will improve. As I've written before, it will be interesting to see what happens if/when Granger returns.

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