Finally… Roy Hibbert has come back to the NBA.
The Indiana Pacers (20-14) center showed the form that made him an All-Star a season ago with a dominating performance over the Milwaukee Bucks (16-16), leading his team to a 95-80 victory at home. Hibbert finished with 20 points, 15 rebounds (11 offensive) and five blocks. It was easily his best showing of the season and only the second time he reached the 20-point mark this year.
“Roy Hibbert had an exceptional night on both ends of the court,” said Indiana coach Frank Vogel. “His scoring has been sporadic this year but he’s probably tried harder than ever to impact the game in other ways. (Saturday night), it was the offensive glass.”
To say Hibbert has been a disappointment this season would be a vast understatement. He signed a max deal (four years, $58 million) in the summer after being courted by several teams and signed to an offer sheet by the Portland Trailblazers. Indiana matched Portland’s offer and Hibbert instantly became the Pacers highest paid player.
Such a distinction comes with huge expectations from fans and media. He was expected to be even more effective offensively than he was last year when he averaged career highs in points, rebounds and field goal percentage. Hibbert has failed to play at those standards all season.
“I’ve been staying positive throughout all this,” said Hibbert. “My teammates have been supporting me. (I) was getting good shots at the beginning of the season, point blank. They just weren’t going in and it was kind of demoralizing.”
A big criticism of Hibbert’s game has been he doesn’t attack the rim with force to finish through contact. He did a better job in this game being aggressive at the rim.
“Early in the season, I’d catch the rebound and I’d just go back up real soft,” Hibbert said. “(Saturday night), I came back down and took my time, either passing it out or trying to go up and score it tough.”
Hibbert, his team and their fans hope this game isn’t just an aberration. A consistent scoring threat in the post gives Indiana the opportunity to compete with the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, who don’t have such a luxury.
Follow Jay Neal on Twitter @JayNilla