Roy Hibbert Learned How to Pass

First thing’s first: sweet “Hibbert is center of attention for Pacers” headline, Indy Star. Hard to believe our nation’s newspaper industry is going bankrupt when you see things like this.

Second thing’s second: Coach Jim O’Brien recently reaffirmed his commitment to running Indiana’s offense through Roy in the post and is encouraged by how well the big fella has been finding the open man so far this year — something best illustrated by the fact that Hibbert has led the team in assists the past two games (with 6 vs. Charlotte and 5 vs. Philly).

“I’ve repeatedly said we’re going to play through Roy and that’s because he’s a unique big man,” O’Brien said. “He’s effective in the low post. He can spot up and shoot and he’s also a terrific passer and willing passer. Our guys know that.

“When you have a big guy who is going to have his hands on the ball a lot, you know if your guy turns his head, cut to the basket and he’ll get you the basketball. That’s a great weapon.”

Many of us expected to see this. But to see it so fast is indeed a fantastic sight. When Kelly Dwyer of Ball Don’t Lie fame was writing about Roy this offseason, he told us that we shouldn’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,” noting Hibbert’s “growing ease with the high post.”

Here’s what I wrote as a response, suggesting that Roy’s natural passing evolution along with Bill Walton’s tutledge would likely do wonders to make that “growing ease” grow even faster.

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.

The Pacers have only played three games thus far, so let’s not start celebrating and presuming that Hibbert will maintain his torrid 4.7 assist-per-game average. But it certainly looks like he has fully turned the corner to the degree that opposing coaches will start thinking twice about running a double team at big Roy.

Now all they need is more, better cutters to find open space.

Lastly, in related news, Tom Lewis of Indy Cornrows offers some insightful commentary on another positive advancement in Roy’s career: leadership. And while this is great for both Hibbert and the team, Tom says, it is particularly helpful for Danny Granger. Read in full.

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Tags: Kelly Dwyer Roy Hibbert

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