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NBA PM: What’s Wrong With Roy Hibbert?

What happened to Roy Hibbert? The Indiana Pacers need him to break this slump if they want to achieve their goals … Kevin Durant named MVP and 2K15 cover athlete in same day

Alex Kennedy

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What’s Wrong With Roy Hibbert?

What on earth is going on with Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert? How can a player go from being a productive All-Star to a complete liability so quickly?

“That’s the million-dollar question,” Pacers assistant Popeye Jones told USA TODAY Sports.

Watching the playoffs, it’s easy to forget that Hibbert was an All-Star this year and the runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting. He was a big reason why the Pacers were dominant for much of the season, finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference. Hibbert is the highest-paid player on Indiana’s roster, earning $14,283,844 for the 2013-14 season and serving as the team’s anchor for most of the year.

But over the last few months, Hibbert has looked like a completely different player. He has become a liability on both ends of the floor for the Pacers, struggling so much that head coach Frank Vogel has cut his minutes in favor of Ian Mahinmi in the postseason.

Through eight playoff games, Hibbert is averaging 4.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and 3.4 fouls. In three of the games, the 7’2 center didn’t score a single point. In two contests, he didn’t grab a single rebound.

Initially, Hibbert’s struggles were attributed to the bad matchup against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, since their big men stretched the floor and brought him out of the paint. However, this didn’t explain his struggles on the glass or the offensive end, and the issues continued in Game 1 against the Washington Wizards when Hibbert recorded zero points, zero rebounds and five fouls.

Hibbert has described this as the worst slump he has ever faced and he has been trying to bounce out of it for awhile. He has talked with coaches, had a locker-room meeting with veterans David West and Rasual Butler and watched film in an effort to figure out why he has been so ineffective.

“I talked with the coaches and it’s the small details [that I need to fix],” Hibbert said. “I’m going to get too much into that right now, but I’m going to change my game plan up a little bit. … I got to come out and be aggressive. I got to be a different Roy Hibbert than I have been.”

Hibbert’s teammates are frustrated that he’s struggling at the most important time of the season, and made it clear that he needs to step up in order for the team to achieve their goals.

“We need him now,” Paul George told the Indianapolis Star. “I have faith that along the way he’s going to find himself. But we’re at the point where we’re really going to need Roy and we really need him now.”

“He’s got to be part of the fight,” West said. “He’s got to be part of this thing for us to go anywhere. … We know this thing is not going to be easy. In these series it’s the first to four. Our back’s against the wall. In Game 2, we got to come out with a better level of aggression. We got to make them more uncomfortable.”

It seems that Hibbert is letting his lack of touches on offense affect his effort and production on the glass and defensive end. At 7’2, he should always be able to impact a game with his rebounding and defense, even if he’s not very involved on the offensive end. Earlier this season, Hibbert was upset about his lack of shots and criticized his teammates by calling them “selfish.” Now, it seems he realizes he should just focus on making his presence felt without the ball in his hands.

“I’m just going to try to be more aggressive on both ends, and not being content with letting all of our guards and forwards get all of the defensive rebounds,” Hibbert said. “I’m going to try to go a good job of putting a body on Nene and [Marcin] Gortat. I just need to go out there and pursue rebounds. … I think the most important for me is play aggressive and stay out of foul trouble.

“The offense we have and the players we have are more outside [oriented], guys who are outside shooters, and they play at a high level. They take it upon themselves to go inside and out, but whenever I am called on to make a post move, I’ll try to be as efficient as possible.”

With his recent struggles, Hibbert has been criticized by fans and media. He has become a punch line on social media, where fans have mocked his awful stats. Even former NBA players like Tracy McGrady and Gilbert Arenas got in the mix, criticizing his zero-point, zero-rebound performance in Game 1.

“Roy knows it,” George told USA TODAY Sports. “He’s getting a lot of criticism from every media outlet, so he’s aware of what’s going on and that his play needs to improve for us to really advance deep in the playoffs. Now, Roy’s just got to come through and deliver. … It’s a mindset. He’s got to clear his mind, demand the ball in the paint and get the ball where he wants it.”

Recently, a rumor circulated on gossip sites that Hibbert’s struggles were due to a teammate having an inappropriate relationship with the center’s fiancé. However, Hibbert’s teammates were quick to shoot down that rumor. George posted on Instagram that the “rumors have got to stop” and called anyone who believes them “ignorant.” Other teammates told the press that the rumor was ridiculous.

“You guys keep making up stories,” George Hill told the Indianapolis Star. “[We’re] just trying to focus, letting Roy know that through all this B.S. going on and rumors and all that, we’re brothers. None of that is happening. This locker room is a tight group, we’re going to continue to be there for each other through the rumors and all the people that’s trying to break it apart.”

“Just getting tired of the media and these stories,” George said. “Just putting everything to bed, everything to rest.”

Whatever is wrong with Hibbert, he needs to figure it out soon if Indiana wants to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals, especially since the Pacers just ruled Andrew Bynum out for the playoffs and excused him from the team. The timing of this slump is horrible for Indiana, and they need their big man to return to form sooner than later.

Durant Earns MVP Award, 2K15 Cover in Same Day

Tuesday afternoon was a great day for Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. Not only did he win the 2013-14 Most Valuable Player award – the first MVP trophy of his career – he also was named as the cover athlete for NBA 2K15.

KevinDurant2K“Being an NBA MVP is an achievement that is a testament to the people that I have in my life – coaches, teammates,” Durant said. “It means the world to me because it solidifies you as one of the best to play the game, and it was always one of my goals. But to be the NBA 2K15 cover athlete is just as important to me because this game is so authentic to who I am as a person. It’s brought me and my family together so much, as a group just enjoying the competition of a video game. Even though it is a video game, it has brought so much joy in our lives. It’s just a blessing to be a part of it, and it’s something that I’ve been longing for for awhile, and I’m just grateful for the opportunity.

“I begged them to put me on the cover because I really think nobody plays the game as much as I do. It is just so authentic to me, and I wanted to be a part of it. I knew I had to perform on the court in order for me to get recognized or just to be in the running for it, so I just tried to do my best and let my game do the talking and it was great that we partnered up and I’m able to be on the cover. Being one of the cover athletes is one of the things I’m never going to forget; it’s a special moment. … So many great players dating all the way back to the Chris Paul’s, Kevin Garnett’s, Kobe Bryant’s, Michael Jordan’s, those guys that have been on the cover so it feels great.”

2K Sports made the announcement on Tuesday afternoon. 2K15 is expected to go on sale in October.

Durant is having his best season as a pro, averaging 32 points, 7.4 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals while shooting 50.3 percent from the field and 39.1 percent from three-point range. He led the NBA in scoring for the fourth time in five years and was named to the All-Star team for the fifth time in his career.

The 25-year-old easily won this year’s MVP award, totaling 1,232 points, including 119 of 125 first-place votes. The runner-up, LeBron James, had just 891 points and six first-place votes. James had won the MVP trophy for the last two years, and four times in the last five seasons.

“I think it was so meaningful because I never let anybody tell me that I wasn’t worthy enough to get an MVP,” Durant said of winning the Most Valuable Player trophy. “I just kept fighting, kept pushing, kept believing in myself and so many people believed in me that I could be the MVP one day, ever since I was kid. I just had that confidence in myself. I always believed that I worked so hard every day and I think that’s why it’s special, because I had to fight to get it. It wasn’t given to me out of sympathy or because they were tired of giving it to somebody else. I really wanted to go take it.”

Now, just as Durant took the MVP trophy from LeBron James, he will take this year’s 2K cover from the Miami HEAT superstar, who was on the cover of NBA 2K14.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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The Real Jrue Holiday Has Finally Arrived

It may have been a little later than they would have wanted, but the Jrue Holiday that New Orleans has always wanted is finally here, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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New Orleans has always earned the nickname “The Big Easy”, but ever since Jrue Holiday came to town, his time there has been anything but.

When New Orleans traded for Holiday back in 2013, they hoped that he would round out an exciting young core that included Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans, and Ryan Anderson. At 23 years old, Holiday averaged 17.7 points, 8.0 assists, and 4.2 rebounds the previous season and was coming off his first all-star appearance in Philadelphia, so the Pelicans had much to look forward to.

Unfortunately, recurring extensive injuries prohibited the Pelicans’ new core from ever playing together fully healthy, with Holiday getting his fair share of the bruises. In his first two seasons, Holiday played in only 74 games combined with the team due to injury, and things didn’t get much better his third season. While he played more games, Holiday was on a minutes restriction and his season ended again with injury.

Holiday avoided the injury bug his fourth season, but he nobly took a leave of absence at the start the season to tend to his ill wife, which caused him to miss the season’s first 12 games and 15 in total. Holiday’s inability to stay on the court coupled with New Orleans’ stagnated progress made him a forgotten man in the NBA. That was until last summer, when Holiday became a free agent.

Given the circumstances, Holiday did what he could for the Pelicans. He certainly proved he was above average, but he hadn’t shown any improvement since his arrival. Coupling that with both how many games he had missed in the previous four seasons and the league’s salary cap not increasing as much as teams had anticipated, and one would think to proceed with caution in regards to extending Jrue Holiday.

But the Pelicans saw it differently. New Orleans gave Holiday a five-year, $126 million extension last summer, befuddling the general masses. Besides Holiday’s inability to stay on the court, the Pelicans already had an expensive payroll, and they later added Rajon Rondo, another quality point guard, to the roster. So, with all that in mind, giving Holiday a near-max contract on a team that had made the playoffs a grand total of once in the Anthony Davis era seemed a little foolish.

This season, however, Jrue Holiday has rewarded the Pelicans’ faith in him and has proven the doubters so very wrong.

With a clean slate of health, Holiday has proven himself to be better than ever. This season, Holiday averaged career-highs in scoring (19 points a game) and field goal percentage (49 percent overall), which played a huge role in New Orleans having its best season since Chris Paul’s last hurrah with the team back in 2011.

Holiday’s impact extended beyond what the traditional numbers said. His on/off numbers from NBA.com showed that the Pelicans were much better on both sides of the ball when he was on the court compared to when he was off. Offensively, the Pelicans had an offensive rating of 108.9 points per 100 possessions when he was the on the court compared to 104.4 points per 100 possessions when he was off.

On the other side of the court, Holiday was even more integral. The Pelicans had a defensive rating of 103.3 per 100 possessions when Holiday was on the court compared to 112.3 off the court. Overall, the Pelicans were 13.6 points per 100 possessions better with Holiday on the floor. That was the highest net rating on the team, even higher than Anthony Davis.

Other statistics also support how impactful Holiday has been this season. According to ESPN’s real plus-minus page, Holiday’s 3.81 Real Plus-Minus ranked ninth among point guards – No. 16 offensively, No. 4 defensively – which beat out Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Goran Dragic, all of whom made the All-Star team this year.

However, Holiday’s effectiveness shined through mid-way through the season, or more specifically, on Jan. 26, when Demarcus Cousins went down with an Achilles tear. While Davis certainly led the way, Holiday’s role could not have been understated when the Pelicans went 21-13 without their MVP candidate to finish the season. Offensively, Holiday’s point average went from 18.6 to 19.4 and his assist average went from 5.2 to 7.2, all while his turnover average – from 2.6 to 2.7 – stayed the same.

Defensively, Holiday had much to do with the Pelicans’ improved defense after Cousins went down. According to NBA.com, the Pelicans defensive rating went from 106.2 points allowed per 100 possessions to 103.7, and much of it can be attributed to Holiday. When Holiday was on the court, the team’s defensive rating was 101.2 points allowed per 100 possessions compared to 109.6 points allowed per 100 possessions with him off.

Holiday’s improved numbers, combined with the Pelicans steadying the boat without their star center, make a fair argument that Holiday was one of the league’s best all-around point guards this season, but Holiday’s style isn’t much of a thrill to watch. He doesn’t have Russell Westbrook’s other-worldly athleticism, he doesn’t have Stephen Curry’s lethal jumper, nor does he have Chris Paul’s floor general abilities. Holiday’s specialty is that he has every fundamental of a good point guard, which makes his impact usually fly under the radar.

That was until last week, when the Pelicans unexpectedly curb stomped the Blazers. The Jrue Holiday coming out party was in full-swing, as the 27-year-old torched Rip City, averaging 27.8 points, 6.5 assists, and 4 rebounds a game on 57 percent shooting from the field, including 35 percent from deep. He did all of that while stymieing MVP candidate Damian Lillard, as Dame averaged 18 points and 4 assists while shooting 35 percent from the field, including 30 percent from deep, and surrendered four turnovers a game.

If Holiday’s contributions weren’t on full display then, they certainly are now. The Pelicans have suddenly emerged as one of the West’s toughest and most cohesive teams in this year’s playoffs, with Holiday playing a huge role in the team’s newfound mojo and potentially glorious future.

This was the Jrue Holiday the New Orleans Pelicans had in mind when they first traded for him almost five years ago. While his impact has come a little later than they would have wanted, it’s as the old saying goes.

Better late than never.

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NBA Daily: Are Player Legacies Really On The Line?

How important is legacy in the NBA playoffs? Lang Greene takes a look.

Lang Greene

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As the NBA Playoffs continue to pick up steam, the subject of individual greatness has become the big topic of conversation. Today, we ask the question: is legacy talk just a bunch of hyperbole or are they really made or broken in the playoffs?

To be clear, legacies do matter. Reputations are built on reliability and how dependable someone is throughout the course of their respective body of work. We all have them. They are built over time and it’s seldom they change from one misstep – but they can. Some of the greatest players in NBA history never won a title; see John Stockton and Karl Malone during their Utah Jazz years. Some NBA greats never won a title until they were past their physical prime and paired with a young charge that took over the reins; see David Robinson in San Antonio. Some NBA greats never won a title as the leading man until they were traded to a title contending team; see Clyde Drexler in Houston. We also have a slew of Hall of Famers that have been inducted with minimal playoff success in their careers; see the explosive Tracy McGrady.

So what’s in a legacy? And why does it mean more for some then it does for others?

Four-time League MVP LeBron James’ legacy is always up for debate, despite battling this season to make his ninth NBA Finals appearance. James’ legacy seems to be up in the air on a nightly basis. Maybe it’s because of the rarified air he’s in as one of the league’s top 10 players all-time or maybe it’s just good for ratings.

As this year’s playoffs gain momentum, the topic of legacy has been mentioned early and often.

Out in the Western Conference, the legacy of Oklahoma City Thunder All-Star guard Russell Westbrook is being questioned at all angles. There’s no doubt Westbrook is one of the best players in the league today as the reigning MVP and coming off two consecutive seasons averaging a triple-double. However, Westbrook’s decision making has come into question plenty over the past couple of seasons.

The subject of whether you can truly win a championship with Westbrook as your lead guy serves as the centerpiece of the debate. It goes without saying former league MVP Kevin Durant bolted to the Golden State Warriors amid rumors that he could no longer coexist next to Westbrook in the lineup. Ever since Durant’s somewhat unexpected departure, it seems Westbrook has been hell-bent on proving his doubters wrong – even if it comes at the detriment to what his team is trying to accomplish.

The latest example was in game four of his team’s current first-round series versus the Utah Jazz.

Westbrook picked up four fouls in the first half as he was attempting to lock up point guard Ricky Rubio, who had a career night in Game 3 of the series. Westbrook infamously waved off head coach Billy Donovan after picking up his second personal foul in the first quarter. Westbrook was also in the game with three personal fouls and under two minutes left in the first half before picking up his fourth personal.

You can make an argument that this was just bad coaching by Donovan leaving him in the game in foul trouble, but it also points to Westbrook’s decision making and not being able to play within the constructs of a team dynamic. Further, what will be Westbrook’s legacy on this season’s Oklahoma City Thunder team with Carmelo Anthony and Paul George if they were to flame out in the first round with little fizzle – against a Jazz team with no star power and zero All-Stars? Is discussing Westbrook’s legacy worthless banter or is it a legitimate topic? There is no doubt on his current trajectory Westbrook is headed straight into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. As an individual player there is no greater achievement than to have your name etched in stone with the greats of yesteryear, but the court of public opinion factors in team success and this is where the topic of legacy comes into play.

Say what you will about Durant’s decision to go to Golden State, but his legacy is undoubtedly secured. Durant won the Finals MVP last season in absolute dominant fashion and showed up on the biggest of stages. All that’s left from those that question Durant’s legacy at this point are the folks on the fringe saying he couldn’t do it by himself. But that is exactly the line of thinking that’s getting Westbrook killed as well, because winning championships is all about team cohesiveness and unity.

Out in the Eastern Conference, all eyes will be on Milwaukee Bucks do everything star Giannis Antetokounmpo. After five seasons in the league, Antetokounmpo has zero playoff series victories attached to his name. Heading into the playoffs this season, the seventh-seeded Bucks were considered underdogs to the second-seeded Boston Celtics.

But the Celtics are wounded. They do not have the services of All Stars Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. The Celtics are a team full of scrappy young talent and cagey veterans. Antetokounmpo is clearly the best player in the series and teams with the best player usually fare well in a seven game series. But the Bucks are facing elimination down 3-2 versus Boston. Antetokounmpo has only been in the league half of the time Westbrook has, but the chirping about his legacy has already begun as Milwaukee attempts to win its first playoff series since 2001.

So what’s in a legacy? Are there varying degrees for which people are being evaluated?

Despite James’ success throughout his career, a first-round exit at the hands of the Indiana Pacers over the next week will damage his legacy in the minds of some. While others feel even if Antetokounmpo and the Bucks were to drop this series against the Celtics, he should be given a pass with the caveat that he still has plenty of time in his career to rectify.

As for Westbrook, there are vultures circling the head of his legacy and these folks feel that a first-round exit will damage his brand irreversibly after 10 seasons in the league

Ultimately, the topic of legacies makes for good column fodder, barbershop banter and sport debate television segments. Because when guys hang up their high tops for good, a Hall of Fame induction is typically the solidifying factor when it comes to a player’s legacy.

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Insiders Podcast

PODCAST: The Futures Of LeBron, PG13, Kawhi and More

Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler and NBA writer David Yapkowitz talk about the future of LeBron James in Cleveland, the Paul George situation, Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs, the future of the Blazers and the Basketball 101 program that’s part of the Professional Basketball Combine.

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Basketball Insiders publisher Steve Kyler and NBA writer David Yapkowitz talk about the future of LeBron James in Cleveland, the Paul George situation, Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs, the future of the Blazers and the Basketball 101 program that’s part of the Professional Basketball Combine.

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