Roy Hibbert lowered his head to begin his understated interview after Monday’s practice at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
He’s the only returning Indiana Pacers starter from a year ago who will be on the court for Wednesday’s home opener against Philadelphia. And he has said he’s going to keep a low profile with the media this season. It’s the new Hibbert, a 7-2 center who plans to concentrate on playing basketball and leave the talking to others.
But with so many of the other starters sidelined by injuries, Hibbert stands alone. Just like that, David West, George Hill and C.J. Watson will join Paul George as spectators. So does this mean the offense will focus more on Hibbert inside?
“I’m going to have my opportunity, but I’m not anticipating averaging 20 points a game,” the seventh-year pro said. “I just want to make sure I’m efficient.”
That’s what he learned from working out with NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the offseason.
“Just be efficient and establish myself early,” he said of the lesson.
Hibbert has been the focal point of much scrutiny in recent seasons, especially after signing a four-year, $58-million contract in 2012. Many expected more offense, but Hibbert’s best scoring season was when he averaged 12.8 points in 2011-12. After the contract, he’s averaged 11.9 points and 10.8 points.
As a rim protector on defense, his presence is invaluable and has helped him earn two All-Star selections. Last season, he was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive second team. He had 182 blocks last season and a career-high 206 the year before that.
But his lack of offense is a continual topic of conversation among media and fans. After averaging a career-best 17 points per game in the 2013 playoffs, he dipped to 9.3 points last postseason. At key fourth-quarter junctures of playoff games, he was kept on the bench.
On media day last month, he announced he would do less talking to reporters. His Monday interview was brief with concise answers.
“I”m just going to go out there and play,” he said. “That’s our whole thing, to go out there and give it our all, go out there and have fun. At the same time, we want to win games.”
When asked about how his new team is coming together, despite the loss of several key players, he said an obvious strength was 3-point shooting, particularly with newcomer C.J. Miles, and team quickness.
He subtly poked fun at himself in answering the question.
“We’ve just been getting used to each other, working on some things on offense and defense,” Hibbert said. “It’s a pretty quick group, myself excluded.”
Here’s Hibbert’s interview.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.