The Indiana Pacers will kick off their Conference Finals or Bust tour tonight in the first game against the Atlanta Hawks. This is a bit of an interesting series to predict because you do wonder what Pacers team will show up. The one that put together that beautiful start to the season or the one we’ve seen the last month gas their way to the finish line. With a fresh start in this playoffs, I believe we’ll see a renewed energy and mindset to this team.
It has to start with the big man in the middle, Roy Hibbert. He’s a guy that has faced plenty of scrutiny from fans over the regression of his season. I thought he definitely deserved some of that criticism when he came out with the line about selfish dudes. Roy Hibbert has never been that type of guy to call out, so it was surprising to me to hear him say that. His head has not been in the right place for a while, but with this fresh start, hopefully, he can wipe things away and become that player we saw last year in the playoffs.
As long as the Pacers are rolling, you might not need as big of an effort from Hibbert that you got last year. Paul George can step his game up. Lance Stephenson has looked even better this season. David West is always a solid performer. But having a big man that can do work for you is just one of the advantages that the Pacers can use.
Plus, if he’s not working, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Frank Vogel go with Ian Mahinmi even more. He’s looked so much better ever since the Pacers brought in Andrew Bynum. Do you think that’s a coincidence? It could be said maybe that messed with the psyche of Roy Hibbert. But who knows anymore?
I do think it’s just important to have that fresh start to the playoffs. Roy Hibbert needs to continue to be aggressive at the basket. Just like in that Oklahoma City game, where he missed all of his shots, but at least, he was getting to the basket. If it’s not clicking on offense, then step up on defense. Roy Hibbert wants to do whatever he can for this team, that’s what we’ve seen so much before.
He’s a guy that’s going to be mental about his game, and I don’t think you can ever change that. I know I’ve read a lot of he needs to just “sack” up and all of that. But what if a guy just has those mental issues about his game? Is it that easy to “man” up and do his job? I hope so for Roy’s sake. He’s a guy that I’ve been behind all along.
When the time came to pay him up, I said, pay him up. He’s been a great guy for the community, especially with his work in his fan area of Area 55. He plays with a good energy when things are rolling. He is that presence in the middle that makes guys think twice about coming down to the lane. I’ve heard the word verticality over the past couple of years more than I’ve ever heard it in my life. He’s just that model of what I want in a Pacers play, and I think we’ll see something good out of Hibbert in the playoffs.