Hibbert Prepares to Lead Defense

Eleven days sit between Roy Hibbert and his first NBA training camp outside of the Indiana Pacers organization. Looking to prove himself in a contract year, the two-time all-star has reshaped his body and aims to remind the league that he remains one of the NBA’s top defensive backbones.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, Hibbert said that he has dropped 14 pounds to 268 over the past few months in an effort to adapt to the league’s current style of play.

“I’ve discovered a new nutritionist,” Hibbert said on The Popcorn Machine podcast. “It’s changed some things up. With how the NBA’s moving, everything is faster. That’s how Golden State won (the championship). You have to be able to move and have bigs that are agile.

“When I was with my last team, I kind of wanted to be a big force in the paint to pound people down low. But we really don’t do that too much anymore. So I had to change my game a little bit, but not too much.”

In addition to dropping weight, Hibbert has been playing full-court scrimmages with a large portion of the Lakers roster. After spending seven years with only one team, the 28-year-old sees these contests as an opportunity to learn Scott’s offense, so he “can land on my feet instead of my back” when training camp begins in Hawaii on Sept. 29.

But while the scrimmages have been a useful from an offensive focus, Scott and the Lakers want Hibbert to lock in defensively. According to Hibbert, they want him to “be mobile, play defense and protect the rim.” And the 2014 Second Team All-Defense honoree is receptive toward this role.

“Look who we have in terms of scoring power: Lou Williams, Nick Young, Kobe (Bryant), JC (Jordan Clarkson), D’Angelo (Russell),” Hibbert said. “All those guys can score, so I’m not gonna sit here and say, ‘I need the rock.’ … I know what I need to do to help this team win, and that’s to shore up the defensive end.”

Hibbert said he told Bryant about his willingness to anchor the defense and that the five-time champion was “very all about that.” As for the offseason, Hibbert credits the aforementioned scrimmages for helping sharpen up his defense. In particular, he has taken advantage of being able to spar with bigs like Tarik Black and Robert Upshaw.

“On my last team we really didn’t have a lot of bigs here in the summer until the last week or two before training camp,” Hibbert said. “I was going one-on-zero, so it’s nice to get a feel of another body going against you in the paint; defending; and being able to see certain aspects of their game, so when we practice I can try to limit that.”

Meanwhile, Hibbert said the Lakers’ last two lottery picks — Russell and Julius Randle — have jumped out at him this offseason. He referred to the latter as “extremely talented” with a “solid” post-game, and said that Randle is currently working on attacking from the mid-post and perimeter.

As for Russell, Hibbert has quickly recognized the skill set that led to the Lakers taking him second overall in the 2015 NBA Draft.

“I didn’t really know too much about D’Angelo, but after watching every game of Summer League that they were on, (I could see) that he could really pass and has a real knack for pushing the tempo,” Hibbert said. “He’s really sneaky athletic. He’ll dunk on a couple 6-foot-8 people and above.”

However, the 7-foot-2 Hibbert also warns that Russell better not try to throw it down while he is securing the paint.

“I’m going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” he said. “One day he’s going to try me, and we’ll see what happens. … I gotta make sure it’s either a hard foul (or) block the shot.”