Week with Walton an immersive experience for Hibbert
Bill Walton doesn't like to refer to his week with Roy Hibbert as a boot camp.
He prefers training camp.
Either way, it's a total Walton experience for the Pacers' young center.
The two begin their day with a working breakfast and film study at 9 a.m. before heading to the weightroom for awhile, and then to the court for conditioning and drills work. After lunch, which of course includes more film study, it's back to the weightroom and then to the court before the day ends around 5 p.m.
"My responsibility, my job is to help Roy build the foundation, give him the tools he needs to learn, give him the ability to learn how to compete and then to be able to transpose that in the body, mind, spirit and soul of someone who's 23 years old and with the weight of the world on his shoulders," said Walton. "In this league, you win when you control the paint and, as a 7-2, 260-pound winner of the genetic lottery, that's what he has to do for this franchise.
"He has to control the paint. It's not his choice, it's his responsibility, it's his duty, it's his obligation. He has to learn how to do that on an individual basis. He has to learn how to do that on a team basis. It's a matter of how hard he's willing to work not just physically but mentally, as well, and to train his mind so that in the heat of battle he can make the correct decisions that are going to allow him to become a great champion and return the Pacers to their rightful place among the hierarchy of the NBA."
One of the best centers in the history of the sport, Walton won two NCAA titles under the late John Wooden at UCLA, then two NBA titles, the last as Larry Bird's teammate with the Boston Celtics in 1986. He subsequently was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame and was selected as one of the top 50 NBA players of all-time.
Who better to turn to for a crash course in the fine art of playing center in the NBA?
"Larry asked me and I work for Larry Bird. I always have," said Walton. "Larry Bird is the reason that I have the life that I do have. He gave me a chance, a chance to be on his team 25 years ago and I owe Larry everything -- the chance to be able to give back, the chance to be able to do whatever I can to help him in his goals and his dreams."
Hibbert has been a fixture at Conseco Fieldhouse most of the offseason, working constantly on his skills and conditioning. The week with Walton is taking that work to another level.
"I'm just trying to be a student of the game and soak up everything," Hibbert said. "He's been very generous with his time so I appreciate that. We're going over a lot of the basics so we can fine-tune some things.
"He's been through it. He talks to me about a lot more stuff off the court than on the court, just walking around with a presence and how that carries over to the court. I'm very appreciative. I just want to gain some knowledge that I wouldn't have learned otherwise. Obviously he was a great player and I can learn a lot from him."
It's a learning experience for Walton, as well. He wants to soak up as much information about Hibbert as possible from a variety of sources because he doesn't intend his work with the young center to end when he returns home.
"We're just getting started," Walton said. "I have to learn his game and I've been watching video and talking to people but I also have to get to know him personally. My job is to help Roy. I'm here for him, I'm here for Larry, I'm here for Coach (Jim) O'Brien. Roy has a tremendous body and he has in inquisitive mind and he has a gregarious personality and a willingness to learn and he's a hard-working guy. He's got every possibility in the world.
"The goal is to raise the foundation, broaden the spectrum of skill and help him learn, help him develop, help him grow and realize what it takes and what's at stake. When you're 57 years old, it's easier to understand all that stuff. When you're 23 years old and the world is swirling around you, it's difficult. My job is to help and to always be there for Roy, for Larry and the Indiana Pacers.
"This is not something where you just fly in and walk out on the court. You develop a lifelong friendship and relationship. I will watch the games, I will call up Roy, I'll make suggestions, I'll encourage and constructively criticize his growth, his progress, his development but also encourage him to celebrate life and to realize that he's really one of the chosen few."
Walton has a lesson for the other Pacers, as well.
"This is a very young team with a dynamic coach, an upbeat, fun, entertaining style," he said. "They all have to know it's a lifelong commitment. It's not just punching the clock. It's not just putting time in. It's about the dream."