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Ball Don’t Lie Is Talking About Roy Hibbert
Trey Kerbz and Kelly Dwyer aren’t really telling us anything us Pacer followers don’t know, but there were a notable two Roy Hibbert mentions today on the co-#1 NBA blog out there (along with TrueHoop, naturally). So I figured we could talk about that since it’s boring old August and all.
Roy first appeared in the mid-tier of NBA centers on Dwyer’s “Ranking the Centers 30-1″ list. Specifically, Hibbert comes in almost dead center at #16.
16. Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers (last year: unranked)
Hibbert has had his growing pains, for sure. From fouling too much in his rookie year to serving as Pacer coach Jim O’Brien’s go-to screaming post in his second. But the Georgetown product has significant skills in the pivot, and don’t be surprised if Roy comes out of nowhere in 2010-11 to act as one of the better passing big men in the NBA. His growing ease with the high post, combined with his already potent low-post play gives Indiana a real up-and-comer.
Like I said, nothing here Pacer fans don’t know. And while I’m sure some Indy backers will put up a stink that Roy is ranked behind Anderson Varejao and Marcus Camby (and perhaps Okafor, too), there is a reasonable argument to be made either way.
The second mention was an Ol’ Yertdawgs joint about Roy Hibbert working with Bill Walton this summer. Again, we’ve known this for quite some time (although I don’t think we actually have mentioned it around these parts yet … mainly cause Tim Donahue is really lazy). And, of course, the actual reporting comes from Mike Wells, who told us about how Roy’s “eyes lit up like a 5-year-old on Christmas morning” when Larry Bird told him he could have his choice of working out this Summer with any of Walton, Kevin McHale or Bill Russell, the proud owners of a combined 16 championship rings if my math is correct. (I’m almost positive it is 2 + 3 + 11 … but whenever I do math in my head it sort of goes like this, so you should probably check my work.)
Now, I’m not sure if the decision was actually up to Hibbert (although Larry has a lot of pull with all three of those Hall of Famers so perhaps it was), but I probably would have also opted to learn from Bill if I was Roy.
For a few reasons.
First, none of these three legends are exactly spry anymore, but Russell is 76-years-old and probably hasn’t actually done a post move in a decade. So his teaching would likely be limited to just sage wisdom. That’s not a bad thing when we’re talking about a 6’9, NBA-version of Yoda who knows more about defense than General Patton, but, at this point in his development, Roy mostly requires help with his footwork, which has been really coming along on its own over the past 24 months.
Given that, McHale might seem the best choice. Along with Hakeem and Duncan, Kevin has the best low block moves of any player to grace the league in my lifetime. But his combination of quickness, deception and gorilla-dragging-his-knuckles-on-the-ground arm length make replicating anything he was able to do nearly impossible. Hibbert trying to learn post moves from McHale would be like an average Major League pitcher trying to learn how to throw like Randy Johnson from Randy Johnson. “Oh … So I see … I should just be 6’10, left-handed and hurl a 100 mph four-seamer that drops six inches while making the hitter think he is about to die from head trauma? OK … I’ll get right on that.”
Thus, Walton was the best fit. Sticking to that past paragraph metaphor, Roy learning from Big Red is like a normal Major League pitcher learning from Greg Maddux. The skill set seems, at least on paper, reasonably translatable.
Both are very, very tall. Both have touch around the hoop. And while even mentioning Roy in Walton’s class when it comes to big man passers is laughable, Hibbert is certainly above average in that regard.
Going back to Dwyer’s comments from earlier, he certainly does have a “growing ease with the high post.” At the beginning of last season, he was at times comically poor, holding … holding … holding the ball with his back to the hoop and just waiting for someone to come save him by taking a dribble hand-off. A dribble hand-off he would execute clumsily.
But by the end of the year, he was turning, facing and hitting cutters at times. No, the awkwardness never escaped him entirely. And, yes, the low block is where most Pacers fans should want to see him firmly planted most of the time. But there may be no big man on the planet more qualified to help Roy get comfortable holding the ball when he isn’t immediately trying to score than Mr. Sir Bill Walton himself.
Meanwhile, Bill was a master of the outlet pass, something that will come in handy in an high-pace offense on the few occasions Roy actually grabs a defensive rebound. Speaking of, Bill can help him with that, too. And, yeah, did I mention that Walton is a genius on the low block, too? Well, he is. Both hands. Hook shots off one or two feet. The works.
All and all, Roy can’t go wrong learning from Walton.
Trey sums it up well:
Yeah, there’s probably no better feeling than having Bill Walton hyperbolizing about how great you are at basketball. It’d be like living in a dream world of magic. Heck, I’d buy a 12-second Walton-ism for $50 if he offered such a service.
Who knows how much this is going to help Roy Hibbert, but if he learns even three defensive tricks from Walton, that’s good news for the Pacers. And, of course, it’s good news for Hibbert because, well, he got to hang out with Bill Walton all summer.
Honestly, the best part of this story, really, is just that Walton is up and about and even physically capable of helping Roy out. Not long ago, Bill was dealing with perhaps his most painful —at least emotionally — injury in a life full of way too many. His spinal pain got so bad that, according to Walton himself, he almost didn’t want to go on living.
“It got to the point where my life wasn’t worth living. I was standing on the edge of the bridge, figuring it was better to jump than to go back to where I was.
“You can’t understand until you’ve been where I’ve been.”
So, yeah, hopefully Roy has gotten a lot out of working with Bill this Summer.
But I have a feeling that one of the best ambassadors this sport has ever had might actually be the one enjoying it even more. Glad to see you back on your feet, Bill.