As the NBA kicked off the Ď11-12 season on Christmas Day and I saw all the familiar faces flash across my screen, what made me the most happy was thinking that seeing the Knicks, Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, Heat, Mavericks, Thunder, Magic and Clippers was just scratching the surface of how many great teams there will be to watch this year.
Those nine teams are arguably the most marketable and star-studded teams in the League, but there are plenty of others. Are you not excited to see the crazy mix of talent David Kahn has collected in Minnesota?
Donít you want to see if Randolph and Gasol can continue the magic in Memphis now that Rudy Gay is back from injury? Do the Spurs have one more ďone last shotĒ in them?
Another team you need to watch this year is the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers have quietly made some of the best moves of the offseason and now find themselves with a frighteningly deep team with a young coach who is prepared to think outside the box, which is what navigating the upcoming, compressed 66-game season is going to take. They are a team to watch and have become, in my opinion, must-see television whenever they are on.
I had a chance to talk to Pacers center (and former E720 employee for any Parks and Recreation
fans out), Roy Hibbert, about the upcoming season as well as his fantastic acting career so far.
SLAM: How excited are you to start the season?
Iím ecstatic to start the season off. I spent a lot of time in the summer lifting and working out so, uh, Iím just hoping it will come to fruition.
SLAM: Is that what you spent most of your time in the offseason doing?
Yeah I was lifting and working out and I split my time between DC and New York I was working at Georgetown and spending time with the Hoyas basketball team.
SLAM: Did you work out with the team at the school?
Yeah I basically practiced with them. Myself and Jeff Green.
SLAM: Thatís great, but you were also pretty busy doing Parks & Rec were you not?
Yeah, I was really happy to be able to be a part of that.
SLAM: I thought you were great on it and I have to say that I thought some of the stuff that you were in was pretty hilarious.
I appreciate that. Itís probably one of the funniest shows and I was really happy to be a part of it. Itís an up and coming show thatís really funny.
SLAM: Itís probably my favorite show. Did you spend much time with the cast or did you have a favorite cast member at all?
Ben Schwartz, he plays Jean Ralphio. He and I were really able to become close friends off set and everything like that. We stay in touch. I went back to L.A. where they film it and I was actually able to go and see his stand up comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade and heís a real funny guy off and on the set.
SLAM: My favorite scene was the ďJello ShotĒ scene at E720 with Aziz Ansari, Jean Ralphio and Adam Scott. Did you have a favorite scene?
They were all a lot of fun. Seriously, every scene I had had like one line and it all took hours. I donít know how those actors do it. I was literally there for 10 hours on set. Itís always been a dream of mine to be on TV for something else besides basketball and Iím really happy that my agent was able to do that, get it set up for me. I donít know if you heard the story about how I got on the show?
SLAM: No, I didnít.
Iím an avid TV watcher and I heard that Derrick Rose was supposed to be on The Good Wife
. That show takes place in Chicago, so Derrick Rose and Chicago and everything. But my fiancťe and I watch The Good Wife
and the two main characters happen to be alumni of Georgetown so I said to myself, what if I were able to get on that show. But Derrick beat me to the punch although he actually missed his flight and didnít get to make it to the filming day to be on the episode. Anyway, I started thinking about what show Iíd want to be on that fit my personality so I asked my agent, David Falk, and he reached out to Lorne Michaels and I thought that was crazy and then Lorne put him in contact with the producer of the show. The producer called me and told me that I could be on the show. The day that he called was crazy because it was a day after it had been rumored that I was going to be traded to Minnesota. I was in a room giving away tickets for my group Area 55 and I get a call from my agent. The whole room goes silent because everyone thinks Iím about to be traded, but instead I got the news I was going to be on a TV show.
SLAM: Getting back to basketball, I really liked the moves that the team made during the offseason like picking up George Hill around the Draft and signing David West. How do you feel about the moves the team made?
The team is, we are extremely young, weíre talented and we added some pieces, some veteran pieces like you said. David West, an experienced low post player whose pick and pop game is excellent. We acquired Lou Amundson from Golden State and heís a hustle guy who can actually score in the paint and has really good moves that he hasnít been able to show. George Hill is obviously long, athletic 2 guard who can play the 1. Plus, with this long lockout and the season starting late I think a lot of these older teams will be a step slower so if we can get out the gate and win those first couple games and just use our youth, weíll be able to stay a step ahead of everybody else.
SLAM: How do you feel about the 66-game season? How are you going to approach that?
I think its going to be more mentally challenging than physically challenging because you have so many games in a row and the teams that are mentally strong are going to be able to figure out who is going to play what amount of minutes in a specific game because you may have three games in a row. Obviously, everybody is going to be tired and thatís going to equal the playing field so thatís why if you are mentally tough that is going to put you over the edge.
SLAM: I wanted to ask you about mental toughness. In your Playoff series against the Bulls, you guys showed a lot of grit and resiliency to hang tough. It was one of the first times I can remember actually seeing a team learn as a series went on. What did you take from that series?
First it was tough late in the season with the experience of going from one coach to the next and by that time we had Frank Vogel and he puts the utmost faith in his players and lets us make mistakes without jumping on us or barking at us. He lets guys make mistakes, get up, and learn. Thatís what we did in the Chicago series. We played those guys extremely tough. With the pieces we added now, I think that can get us over the hump. We learned from game to game to what we needed to do. And now that we have our feet wet with experiencing the Playoffs, we can try to go deeper.
SLAM: I know itís hard to stop a player like Derrick Rose, but was there a specific piece like a George Hill who could spell Collison, that you thought you guys were missing during that series?
I think more than just our players it was communication. We had never been in a situation like the Playoffs before and I have to say the communication factor is huge. Because our guards like Paul George or Darren Collison are guarding Derrick Rose and Iím calling out ďScreen! Screen! Screen!Ē but they canít hear me and they are getting their heads knocked off by Boozer or Noah because the arena is so loud. So we learned some ways to circumvent those problems and I think all us players learned from just being in that atmosphere in the home arena and the away arena.
SLAM: Obviously the overall goal is to win a Championship, but do you have any particular goals this year for yourself as far as points or rebounds or anything like that goes?
For me, I just want to be a defensive presence. I was in the top three in blocks for awhile there last year but I dropped out of there but for me defense is almost the most important thing, coming from Georgetown with a long line of centers I was always taught to be defensively strong and that offense will come along so I want to be able to block at least block 2.5-3 shots per game and average double-digit rebounds and everything else will just come.
SLAM: I think you guys are a dark horse to make a run in the East this year. I sort of think of you as this yearís Memphis. Is that an apt comparison?
I always wanted to model our team like the Oklahoma City Thunder where we have youth around a superstar. Then you can add pieces. I mean first, there was Seattle and then when they moved to Oklahoma City they werenít doing well but they have grown. Memphis with Z-Bo and Marc Gasol they were able to go deep into the Playoffs. We just want to model ourselves after those teams and continue to grow.
SLAM: Who is your closest buddy on the team?
Darren Collison. We are very close. We sit next to each other on the plane, we go to dinner, we talk after the games. I went to his wedding this summer.
SLAM: OK, so I want to wrap this up with a bit of a tough question. If you have to choose just one, who do you got? Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones or Aubrey Plaza?
Oh man. I prefer all three.
SLAM: If you had to pick one.
I got to meet Aubrey. I didnít get to meet Rashida or Amy Poehler, so I have to say Aubrey.