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The Center of Attention

Frank McGrath -- Pacers.com

Frank McGrath — Pacers.com

Corey Elliot
ISR Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS-How, what, when, where and why? Five of life’s most commonly asked questions about trivial matters such as new technology, modern medicine, life, death and Roy Hibbert.

How is a 7’2, NBA center averaging 10.8 PPG and just 6.6 RPG? What happened to the 2013 playoff version of Hibbert? When will Hibbert return to a true All Star’s form? Where is Hibbert’s heart? Why is Indiana Pacers head coach Frank Vogel still starting Hibbert?

I have never seen a season unravel for one player like it has for Hibbert this season. Let me reiterate that—I’ll try to be a little clearer for everyone—I have never seen such a horrid performance in my entire life, Roy.

What is left to blame? Exhaustion, team struggles, selfish teammates and foul trouble are all checked off. There is nothing left to blame. Not even the greatest of conspiracy theorists could lecture a logical explanation for averaging such pedestrian numbers and there isn’t a car salesman in the United States that could possibly rationalize how Hibbert is playing, selling us all on why we should continue to believe he will ever be what he once was, let alone what he could have been.

After Sunday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, Vogel went to bat for Hibbert when asked to gauge his performance. Hibbert finished 0-9 from the field with no points and six rebounds.

“I thought he looked pretty good. Other than missing shots, I thought he played better with a good energy,” Vogel said of Hibbert’s scoreless outing. “He looked better than he did a week ago. I think the time off helped him more than anybody.”

Wait, what?

Okay, he played with a little more pep in his step, but he missed nine—nine—shots from the field. I don’t want to blow a quote out of proportion or take it out of context. That’s ridiculous, though. If we’re going to defend a sub-par performance for a guy with big-time expectations, then let’s take a trip to Statville, shall we?

In the month of April, Hibbert has averaged 5.6 PPG and 2.4 RPG in five games played. In the month of March, Hibbert averaged 9.7 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 18 games played.

Hibbert has played in 79 games this season. In 50—yes, 50— of those 79 games, Hibbert has scored less than 12 points. In 36 of those 79 games, Hibbert grabbed five or less rebounds. In fact, the “Big Dog” has only scored more than 18 points in 11 of those 79 games and grabbed 10 or more rebounds in just 19 of the 79 games (by-the-way, when you see a word italicized that’s me screaming).

Oh, just wait, it gets better. Roy has scored less than five points—five—in 17 games this season.

Miles Plumlee, remember him? He has averaged 8.1 PPG and 7.9 RPG this season. Yes, you read that correctly, Miles Plumlee, folks. In only three games played this year for the Pacers, Andrew Bynum averaged 8.7 PPG and 5.6 RPG. Bynum, a center battling knee issues coming off of prior locker room issues with other teams, and Plumlee, a second-year center, are almost averaging the same numbers as Hibbert, a 2013-2014 NBA All Star center.

There are 18 starting centers in the NBA averaging more points and rebounds per game than Hibbert. Oh, but it gets worse. There are four back-up centers in the NBA averaging more points and-or rebounds per game than Hibbert. Back up centers, as in, they don’t play as many minutes as starting centers.

Are you sitting down? Okay, for your enjoyment, here are your 2013-2014 NBA centers that make Hibbert look like he is 6 ft. without an ounce of basketball ability in the paint.

Minnesota Timberwolves: *Kevin Love 25.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG

Back up Nikola Pekovic 17.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG

Portland Trailblazers: LaMarcus Aldridge 23.2 PPG, 11.2 PPG

Back up *Robin Lopez 11 PPG, 8.5 RPG

Sacramento Kings: Demarcus Cousins 22.6 PPG, 11.7 RPG

Charlotte Bobcats: Al Jefferson 21.9 PPG, 10.7 RPG

New Orleans Pelicans: Anthony Davis 20.8 PPG, 10 RPG, 2.8 BPG

Brooklyn Nets: Brook Lopez 20 PPG, 6 RPG

Houston Rockets: Dwight Howard 18.4 PPG, 12.2 RPG

Golden State Warriors: David Lee 18.3 PPG, 9.4 RPG

San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan 15.2 PPG, 9.8 RPG

Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka 15.2 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG

Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol 14.4 PPG, 7 RPG

Washington Wizards: *Nene 14.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG

Back up Marcin Gortat 13.2 PPG, 9.4 RPG

Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond 13.4 PPG 13.2 RPG

Chicago Bulls: Joakim Noah 12.5 PPG, 11.2 RPG

Cleveland Cavaliers: Tristian Thompson 11.7 PPG, 9.2 RPG

Back up Spencer Hawes 13.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG

Utah Jazz: Enes Kanter 12.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG

Toronto Raptors: Jonas Valanciunas 11.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG

Los Angeles Clippers: Deandre Jordan 10.5 PPG, 13.7 RPG, 2.5 BPG

Stats were obtained via NBA.com. All players listed were listed as a C. Duncan and Aldridge were listed as C/PF. Asterisk indicates player plays PF/C.

Ian Mahinmi’s 3.5 PPG and 3.3 RPG isn’t much, but even a little-bit has been a lot better than Roy’s whole-lot-of-nothin’ lately. Mahinmi brings a level of athleticism as well. His ability to run the floor and get involved on rebounds and tipped balls at the rim makes Hibbert look like a baby deer trying to walk for the first time on ice.

A slump is a brief span of games where you play mediocre. A slump would be nine points and seven rebounds per game. This is not a slump. This is a guy that has fallen off so far its beginning to make Sam Bowie and the Portland Trailblazers feel good about themselves (see 1984 NBA draft). And speaking of Portland, they should feel good about themselves; they duped the Pacers into a $58 million deal for Hibbert two summers ago.

Look, I have a pretty savvy set of problem solving skills and this case isn’t a hard one to crack, people. You don’t have to be a member of Mensa to figure it out. Roy’s time in Indiana is wearing thin, very thin.

Larry Bird and the Pacers’ front office have some serious questions to ask themselves this offseason—if they’re not already asking them. If Hibbert continues to regress into the dismal abyss of sorrow where could-have-been and never-was players hang out, the Pacers are going to need to look for a new starting center and a team that wants to pay the remaining millions to Roy Hibbert.

The Pacers will sit David West, Paul George, Lance Stephenson and C.J. Watson tonight against the Orlando Magic. George Hill and Hibbert will play to try and gain a little traction heading into this weekend’s playoff opener at home against Atlanta.

Corey Elliot is a Senior Writer at the Indy Sports Report and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association. Corey is recognized as accredited member of the media by the Pacers and has full media access. You can follow Corey and ISR on Twitter.

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