Backboard’s Shadow: Roy Hibbert

Roy Hibbert

Standing at seven feet two inches above concrete in the game of basketball is always, no matter who, what or where you are, a good thing.  Offensively where the objective is putting the ball in a circular iron ten feet from your shoe strings, having arms that would make Rapunzel’s man jealous are rarely frowned upon.  On the other end, sending attempted floaters back into a shooter’s forehead with the same ease it takes to strike a moth will make one coach smile and the other shudder.

Indiana’s second year big man Roy Hibbert, whom they acquired from Toronto before he’d ever played a game, is slowly but surely making good of his 7’ 2” frame.

In the four years I’ve watched the 23-year-old play basketball, the one word I’d most easily identify with him would be timid. Timid on the block laying the ball in instead of smashing it through the rim which he is more than capable of.  Naturally you’d expect him to be a larger Marlo, hanging on the block, but thanks to the Princeton offense that was instituted at Georgetown, Hibbert spent most of his time in the high post where he became a pretty good passer and was able to develop a surprisingly respectable shot.

Now that he’s in the league you can’t be mad at the range he’s garnered, but the nervous, even cowardly play around the basket had to stop.  Throughout December he’d been showing flashes of improvement and less of the anxiousness he’d become known for in his brief spotlight time.

There was the 20 points dropped on Brook Lopez and then a week later 20 and six blocks against Tim Duncan. A few days ago we had a season-high 27 points against New Orleans.

A new founded toughness that could and would make others fear him instead of vice versa is starting to take fold and no moment paints the portrait better than his last trip to Orlando couple of weeks ago.

Trying to fight through a pick set by Hibbert, journeyman Matt Barnes grew frustrated and forcefully knocked him to the ground.  If reading that you question how the spindly Matt Barnes could knock anyone over, albeit a giant like Roy Hibbert, the Magic guard would agree, as a look of disgust formed on his face.  Looking down at the fallen Pacer who he’d suspected of flopping, Barnes did an Iverson/Tyronne Lue step over and began to walk in the direction of his basket.

Using his high quality Georgetown education, Hibbert noticed the embarrassingly blatant disrespect, jumped up and crowded the suddenly sheepish Barnes. This moment was more important than any other in the game and possibly Hibbert’s entire career.

Forget about the game high 35 minutes logged, the game high 26 points against Dwight Howard (who fouled out in 28 minutes and made two baskets), or the fact that this all came on the road against one of the NBA’s better teams.

At 7’2” there’s no doubting his serious physical advantage over nearly everybody (he’s three inches taller than Orlando’s Superman), but with a guy like Hibbert it’s what’s beating in his chest that matters the most. Hibbert stood up for himself as a man in a man’s league. If this was a turning point for the youngster it’s a scary revelation for every other coach in the league.

Especially when you consider how tall he is.

Seth Carstens