Independence Day appears to have been liberating for the Indiana Pacers and center Roy Hibbert.
The holiday brought multiple reports the Pacers are finalizing a trade to send Hibbert to the Los Angeles Lakers, who would take on the former two-time All-Star’s $15.5 million salary.
The deal is expected to be done after July 9, an unnamed source told ESPN.com on Saturday.
Hibbert, 28, had been the subject of trade rumors for more than a year. After the Pacers failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009-10, Pacers President Larry Bird said the team’s plan to shift to an up-tempo style would likely lessen the 7-foot-2 center’s minutes.
Bird also said he had expected to see more production from Hibbert in the absence of two-time All-Star Paul George, who missed much of the season with a broken leg. Hibbert averaged 10.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks last season.
While valued as a rim protector and shot blocker, Hibbert’s offensive inconsistency led to continual media criticism. His best season with the Pacers was 2011-12, when he averaged 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds and hit 49.7 percent of his shots, all career bests, and had two blocks per game.
But the seventh-year pro’s scoring and shooting percentage have dipped since then — he hasn’t shot better than 44.8 percent since — and his minutes tailed off toward the end of last season.
Hibbert has sounded unhappy during interviews in recent years. Before last season, he made it clear he wasn’t going to talk much to reporters.
The Pacers were presumed to be limited in salary cap space prior to free agency, but forward David West opted out of the final year of his contract, which freed up $12.6 million. Now moving Hibbert would give the Pacers even more fiscal flexibility to sign players that fit the team’s new plan.
Earlier in the week, Indiana agreed to a four-year, $44-million deal with shooting guard Monta Ellis, according to multiple reports. A 19.3-point scorer in 10 NBA seasons, Ellis is particularly effective at creating off the dribble and is a clutch scorer.
Bird has said the Pacers would play George more at power forward. The team likes point guard George Hill’s ability to score as well as distribute. Guard-forward C.J. Miles averaged a career-high 2.2 3-pointers last season, although the streaky shooter has spent much of his 10-year career coming off the bench and could be a reserve if the Pacers add another front-line starter.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.