Pacers rookie Hibbert a magnet for foul trouble

Pacers' 7-2 center still a magnet for foul trouble, which has limited his playing time this season

By Mike Wells
Posted: November 10, 2008

The minutes are there. It's up to rookie Roy Hibbert to take advantage of them. Indiana Pacers coach Jim O'Brien usually signals down to Hibbert to check into the game at some point in the first quarter.

The 7-2 center usually ends up back on the bench a few minutes later.
It's not that he isn't playing hard or providing a defensive presence for the 2-3 Pacers. The problem Hibbert has is that he can't stay out of foul trouble.

The little things get Hibbert in trouble. It's an illegal screen one time, then being a step too late helping out another time. At times he's been whistled while trying to block a shot.

Hibbert has picked up at least three fouls in each of the past four games. His minutes will remain limited until he learns how to avoid fouling so much.
"I think he's taking a lot of positive steps," O'Brien said. "He's stepping up and really protecting the basket. If we can deal with his foul difficulties, his minutes will continue to increase."

The Pacers host Oklahoma City tonight at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Hibbert's minutes have been relatively limited -- 13.6 per game -- but he's shown he can be a steady contributor if he can stay out of foul trouble.
He's an above-average passer for his position, he's always trying to provide help defense and he's shown that he can get up and down the court with the rest of his teammates offensively.

"The NBA is a tough game," O'Brien said. "It takes experience for all rookies to understand the nuances offensively and defensively in the league. There's nothing like experience and they need as much as experience as they can.

"Sometimes we're force-feeding them those minutes and we won't always force-feed those minutes. They'll earn them.

Hibbert had his best game of the season when he had 11 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against the Cavaliers last Friday. He also fouled out with more than nine minutes left in the game.

The play that often gets Hibbert in trouble is when he leans forward with his arms instead keeping them straight up when an offensive player drives to the basket. He about flew out the gym on a pump fake from Cleveland's Anderson Varejao about 12 feet from the basket. Hibbert said he needs to improve his defensive stance.

"Obviously I'm trying to adjust as fast as I can, but I need to pick it up a lot quicker because I'm picking up too many fouls in a short amount of time," Hibbert said. "If I want to be effective I've got learn to play defense without fouling."

Hibbert said the game is being called tighter than in college. He spends the first couple of minutes of each game analyzing how close the officials are calling things.

"I've been telling him ever since I met him that he has to bend his knees defensively," teammate Jeff Foster said. "For him to be effective and stay on the floor as much as we need him to and he would like to, he's got to bend his legs and become more of an athletic defensive presence."

Hibbert's doing his best to knock the notion that he's just a defensive player who happens to know how to pass from the high post of the offense. He works hard to get open deep in the post to try to give the Pacers some sort of offensive scoring down low. The results haven't shown up yet, as Hibbert is shooting just 46 percent from the field.

"He's a very skilled low-post player," O'Brien said. "He uses both of his hands. He hasn't had the success I think he's going to enjoy throughout this year and into his future. Shots are just not dropping for him, but certainly he's getting quality shots."


This is no surprise. We expected Hibbert to have to learn to play without fouling. who can explain to me why Foster insists he need to bend his knees? Is it just to enable him to move more quickly?