After being named an All-Star in 2012 and 2014, former Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert saw his stint with the team end in a tailspin. Hibbert found himself in a huge rut at the end of the 2014 regular season and in the NBA Playoffs, including some embarrassing zero-point, zero-rebound performances that spawned dozens of jokes and memes poking fun at Hibbert’s rebounding and scoring deficiencies.
Pacers president Larry Bird indirectly hinted at Hibbert’s departure when he stated that Indiana intended to play a smaller and faster brand of basketball this upcoming season, and he did indeed pull the trigger on a Hibbert trade in July, sending the big man to the Los Angeles Lakers.
With the trade, Indiana was able to shed Hibbert’s salary and will now be able to experiment with small-ball lineups more often. For Hibbert, the opportunity to revitalize his career while donning a Lakers uniform is exciting, and he’s looking forward to playing with Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant.
Bryant, who has been billed as a demanding leader throughout the course of his career, will look to push Hibbert and bring out the best in the former All-Star, and the challenge that comes with trying to meet Bryant’s expectations is something Hibbert is thrilled about he told Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com.
“Just being able to play with a great [and] being pushed by somebody that has done it and won five championships. I’m up for a challenge,” Hibbert says. “People tell me a lot of different things, how he’ll respect me, and I feel like if I go about my business, I can get it done.”
“So,” Hibbert says before taking a long pause, “it’ll be a challenge. But I’m up for it. I’m not going to speculate on other people and how they interacted with him and their relationships, but I feel like if I put my best foot forward in practices and in games, I don’t feel like there will be any tension. And I’m the type of person that will be like, ‘Hey, if I did something, let’s talk it out,’ as opposed to just going back and forth every day.”
Hibbert may suffer from a fragile mental state, but there’s no question that the former Georgetown Hoya will work hard each and every day during his tenure as a Laker. Despite all of the barking Bryant does at his teammates, many have said that he’ll endorse you as an on-court ally if you work hard and compete at a high level, two things that have been synonymous with Bryant throughout his entire basketball career.
Hibbert’s main duty for the Lakers will be protecting the rim and rebounding, as he looks to anchor what was a laughable defense last year. Offensively Hibbert may endure some struggles, but he’ll be able to get his by running the floor, getting cheap put-backs and catching-and-finishing when his teammates dish him the ball.
With a chip on his shoulders and Bryant in his ear, Hibbert can either continue his free-fall or rise to the occasion and get back to his dominant defensive ways. He says he is up to the challenge, so let’s see what results he produces for the Lakers.