Ball Don't Lie Is Talking About Roy Hibbert

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Trey Kerbz and Kelly Dwyer aren’t really telling us anything us Pacer followers don’t know, but there were a notable two Roy Hibbert mentions today on the co-#1 NBA blog out there (along with TrueHoop, naturally). So I figured we could talk about that since it’s boring old August and all.

Roy first appeared in the mid-tier of NBA centers on Dwyer’s “Ranking the Centers 30-1″ list. Specifically, Hibbert comes in almost dead center at #16.

Says Kelly:

16. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers (last year: unranked)

Hibbert has had his growing pains, for sure. From fouling too much in his rookie year to serving as Pacer coach Jim O’Brien’s go-to screaming post in his second. But the Georgetown product has significant skills in the pivot, and don’t be surprised if Roy comes out of nowhere in 2010-11 to act as one of the better passing big men in the NBA. His growing ease with the high post, combined with his already potent low-post play gives Indiana a real up-and-comer.

Like I said, nothing here Pacer fans don’t know. And while I’m sure some Indy backers will put up a stink that Roy is ranked behind Anderson Varejao and Marcus Camby (and perhaps Okafor, too), there is a reasonable argument to be made either way.

The second mention was an Ol’ Yertdawgs joint about Roy Hibbert working with Bill Walton this summer. Again, we’ve known this for quite some time (although I don’t think we actually have mentioned it around these parts yet … mainly cause Tim Donahue is really lazy). And, of course, the actual reporting comes from Mike Wells, who told us about how Roy’s “eyes lit up like a 5-year-old on Christmas morning” when Larry Bird told him he could have his choice of working out this Summer with any of Walton, Kevin McHale or Bill Russell, the proud owners of a combined 16 championship rings if my math is correct. (I’m almost positive it is 2 + 3 + 11 … but whenever I do math in my head it sort of goes like this, so you should probably check my work.)

Now, I’m not sure if the decision was actually up to Hibbert (although Larry has a lot of pull with all three of those Hall of Famers so perhaps it was), but I probably would have also opted to learn from Bill if I was Roy.

For a few reasons.

First, none of these three legends are exactly spry anymore, but Russell is 76-years-old and probably hasn’t actually done a post move in a decade. So his teaching would likely be limited to just sage wisdom. That’s not a bad thing when we’re talking about a 6’9, NBA-version of Yoda who knows more about defense than General Patton, but, at this point in his development, Roy mostly requires help with his footwork, which has been really coming along on its own over the past 24 months.

Given that, McHale might seem the best choice. Along with Hakeem and Duncan, Kevin has the best low block moves of any player to grace the league in my lifetime. But his combination of quickness, deception and gorilla-dragging-his-knuckles-on-the-ground arm length make replicating anything he was able to do nearly impossible. Hibbert trying to learn post moves from McHale would be like an average Major League pitcher trying to learn how to throw like Randy Johnson from Randy Johnson. “Oh … So I see … I should just be 6’10, left-handed and hurl a 100 mph four-seamer that drops six inches while making the hitter think he is about to die from head trauma? OK … I’ll get right on that.”

Thus, Walton was the best fit. Sticking to that past paragraph metaphor, Roy learning from Big Red is like a normal Major League pitcher learning from Greg Maddux. The skill set seems, at least on paper, reasonably translatable.

Both are very, very tall. Both have touch around the hoop. And while even mentioning Roy in Walton’s class when it comes to big man passers is laughable, Hibbert is certainly above average in that regard.

Going back to Dwyer’s comments from earlier, he certainly does have a “growing ease with the high post.” At the beginning of last season, he was at times comically poor, holding … holding … holding the ball with his back to the hoop and just waiting for someone to come save him by taking a dribble hand-off. A dribble hand-off he would execute clumsily.

But by the end of the year, he was turning, facing and hitting cutters at times. No, the awkwardness never escaped him entirely. And, yes, the low block is where most Pacers fans should want to see him firmly planted most of the time. But there may be no big man on the planet more qualified to help Roy get comfortable holding the ball when he isn’t immediately trying to score than Mr. Sir Bill Walton himself.

Meanwhile, Bill was a master of the outlet pass, something that will come in handy in an high-pace offense on the few occasions Roy actually grabs a defensive rebound. Speaking of, Bill can help him with that, too. And, yeah, did I mention that Walton is a genius on the low block, too? Well, he is. Both hands. Hook shots off one or two feet. The works.

All and all, Roy can’t go wrong learning from Walton.

Trey sums it up well:

Yeah, there’s probably no better feeling than having Bill Walton hyperbolizing about how great you are at basketball. It’d be like living in a dream world of magic. Heck, I’d buy a 12-second Walton-ism for $50 if he offered such a service.

Who knows how much this is going to help Roy Hibbert, but if he learns even three defensive tricks from Walton, that’s good news for the Pacers. And, of course, it’s good news for Hibbert because, well, he got to hang out with Bill Walton all summer.

Honestly, the best part of this story, really, is just that Walton is up and about and even physically capable of helping Roy out. Not long ago, Bill was dealing with perhaps his most painful —at least emotionally — injury in a life full of way too many. His spinal pain got so bad that, according to Walton himself, he almost didn’t want to go on living.

“It got to the point where my life wasn’t worth living. I was standing on the edge of the bridge, figuring it was better to jump than to go back to where I was.

“You can’t understand until you’ve been where I’ve been.”

So, yeah, hopefully Roy has gotten a lot out of working with Bill this Summer.

But I have a feeling that one of the best ambassadors this sport has ever had might actually be the one enjoying it even more. Glad to see you back on your feet, Bill.

Tags: Bill Walton Kelly Dwyer Kevin McHale Larry Bird Roy Hibbert Trey Kerby

  • curlystooge

    I’m glad that you made a reference to Dr. Hibbert from the Simpsons. I’ve been wanting for a long time, that every time Roy makes a big play, a deep chocolate voice should come over the PA saying “The Dr. is in the House” followed up with Dr. Hibbert’s laugh…

  • http://www.eightpointsnineseconds.com Tim Donahue

    I’d defend my honor, but it seems like too much effort.

  • NHK

    “Going back to Dwyer’s comments from earlier, he certainly does have a “growing ease with the high post.” At the beginning of last season, he was at times comically poor, holding … holding … holding the ball with his back to the hoop and just waiting for someone to come save him by taking a dribble hand-off. A dribble hand-off he would execute clumsily.”

    Don’t know about the handing off clumsily part, but the description you wrote regarding Roy was something he was instructed to do at Georgetown. The centers on offense would often have their backs to the basket (sometimes 10 or more feet away from the hoop) and wait on cutters to receive the ball through handoffs or bounce passes. Its part of the Princeton style offense and Greg Monroe would do the same thing while he was at GU. It can at times be ineffective, especially if a player holds onto the rock too long. But it can also be very effective as long as his teammates are constantly moving and/or cutting to the hole. Unfortunately for Roy he is on an NBA team where teammates don’t cut…..they simply stand beyond the three-point line and wait on the ball. But my point is Hibbert coming into the NBA was already well instructed for a big man on how to be effective on offense without scoring (in other words being a distributor from the low post or the high post). Most Pacers fans don’t seem to have a problem with him on that regard.

    Also Walton pointed out that Roy doesn’t need much work on the offensive side of the ball. He thinks highly of his ability to score and pass. Much more so than you it appears since you seem to think Walton needs to teach Roy how to shoot a hook shot with either hand when most folks who pay attention understand Roy can already do that. And Roy, right now, is one of the very best passing big men in the league. The amount of assists he gets in his still limited minutes bear that out. Its defense, rebounding and stamina that has always been Roy’s main weaknesses. And anything Walton can teach Roy in those areas is a godsend. Walton is the perfect mentor for Roy. I originally wanted McHale only because I never thought Walton would be a possibility.

    Last of all I loved McHale’s game but I never would have used the adjective “quickness” to describe his play.

  • Kevin

    Did you guys watch the MMA video of Hibbert and George? These guys are super refreshing, especially in the wake of the Brandon Rush news. I’m tempted to say Rush needs to hang out with these guys, but I’m also tempted so keep Rush away from these guys at all cost!!

    We obviously won’t know how good Hibbert will be on the court this year, but it is great to see him working hard and being a good guy. This is absolutely what helps builds a fanbase. It of course helps that he is a promising talent too! Even if he just slightly improves from last year, we’ll take that package any day, but the thought of him taking a big step forward is obviously fantastic.

    I was just looking at photos of him from Georgetown, and he looks like a different person now. He just looks 100% more fit.

  • peter

    I think Roy will be a top 10 center for many years to come

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