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Vogel Makes Call, Hibbert Answers

by Scott Agness

November 19, 2012

When Frank Vogel took over as interim head coach on Jan. 30th, 2011 (and later had the interim tag removed), part of why the move made sense was the players' confidence in him. He understands his players and believes in his players. Most of his actions are behind the scenes, but one recent meaningful after-hours gesture came to light following the Pacers' 96-89 win in Washington.

"I made a phone call to Roy Hibbert last night," Vogel said postgame. "He told me he was going to have a big night. Promised me 20 and 10 and he delivered."

Coach Vogel realizes the flows of a season and stayed confident that Hibbert would come around. Big Roy was touched that his coach took the time to reinforce what he had been saying and build a positive vibe before he went to sleep.

"He's probably the most positive coach I've ever had," said Hibbert. "I was a little surprised—it's 11:30 at night and he gives me a call. But he's always been supportive and I appreciated the call and he just expressed his support and care for me."

Hibbert has gotten off to a slow start this season, just months after signing a maximum deal contract for a reported four years, $58 million. After improving his averages in each of his first four seasons, his numbers (8.5 points, and 7.9 rebounds per game) had dipped through the first 11 games. There's no questioning his passion or work ethic. He just hadn't been able to put a solid night together.

Until Monday. (Albeit, it was against the winless Wizards, but you have to start somewhere.)

Hibbert went 8-of-10 from the field and finished with 20 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three assists. It's the type of contribution the Pacers need from Hibbert for a successful season.

"We need him, he knows we need him and we believe in him," Vogel seaid. "He's got to continue it because he's not there yet. He's got to do it on a consistent basis. He's a heck of a player, he anchors our defense."

In addition to the late-night phone call, Hibbert spent time with his parents, which is always good for the soul. During Monday's game, Patty and Roy Sr. sat courtside just a few feet from the bench.

"I saw them," Hibbert said of his parents. "My mom makes a lot of noise. She expresses herself a lot. It was good to be home."

Playing near home and in the arena where he played college ball, Hibbert finally looked like himself. He was effective on offense, clogged up the middle on defense and he was finally smiling. The 7-foot-2 center even took a charge. Previously, you could sense the pressure weighing down on him and that he wasn't enjoying being out on the court.

"I thought he was a lot more active before he got the ball," David West said of Hibbert's play. "He was doing things to get himself in good position where he could just catch it and get a good shot at the rim. This NBA season is so long and there are going to be ups and downs, but I think we're going to continue to build him up."

Coach Vogel reaffirming his belief in Hibbert is a good representation of the Pacers' culture. And if it was partly responsible for Hibbert's turn around, they'll take it.

The job now for Hibbert is to continue producing, which will lead to wins. And, to remember to smile along the way.

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