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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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G-League Watch: 10-Day Contracts

David Yapkowitz looks at five potential G-League callups for 10-day contracts.

David Yapkowitz

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Since Jan. 10, NBA teams have been able to sign players from the G-League to ten-day contracts. A few have already been signed, such as DeAndre Liggins with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kyle Collinsworth with the Dallas Mavericks.

Once a ten-day contract expires, teams have the option of signing that player to another ten-day contract. After the second ten-day, teams must either sign the player for the remainder of the season or release that player.

Some players have used ten-day contracts to essentially jump-start their careers. Bruce Bowen was once a ten-day contract player before becoming a key piece of multiple championship teams in San Antonio. Famed New York Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason also got his first chance in the league off a ten-day contract.

With a few guys already being called up via ten-day as well as the NBA’s new two-way contracts, here’s a look at some of the remaining names who might be next in line.

1. Christian Wood

Christian Wood was once a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He played two college seasons at UNLV before declaring for the NBA draft in 2015. Despite being projected to be drafted late in the first round or early second round, he did not hear his name called on draft night. He’s spent some time in the NBA since then, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets, but he currently plays for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers G-League affiliate.

His 22.0 points per game are tied with James Young for top scorer on the team. He’s shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he’s also displayed a nice outside touch for a big man at 35.2 percent from three-point range. He leads the team in rebounds at 9.6, as well as in blocked shots with 2.0. He’s very mobile and could certainly help a team as a stretch big man who can play defense and crash the glass.

2. Jameel Warney

Jameel Warney has been a candidate for an NBA call-up for quite some time. The former Stony Brook standout had a big summer with Team USA basketball. He was the tournament MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americup and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for 2017. He got as far as training camp/preseason with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016, and he’s currently playing for their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.

With the Legends, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 10.4, and he’s tied with Johnathan Motley leading the team in blocked shots with 1.5. He’s shooting 52.5 percent from the field. What could be hindering his NBA chances is his lack of an outside shot, especially with the way the game is being played today. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the G-League’s top players and he deserves a shot in the big leagues.

3. Melo Trimble

After a solid three years at the University of Maryland, Melo Trimble was one of the best players not selected in this past summer’s draft. He played well for the 76ers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which in turn earned him an invite to training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ended up being one of their final cuts at the end of preseason, and he went on to join their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.

He’s third on the Wolves in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, and a decent 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also leading the team in assists per game with 5.7. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup point guard, and if he can get his shooting numbers, especially from three-point range, up a little bit, there’s no question he’s NBA caliber.

4. Joel Bolomboy

Joel Bolomboy is a name that should be familiar to Utah Jazz fans. He was drafted by the Jazz in 2016, and although relegated to mostly end of the bench duty, he showed a bit of potential and flash here and there. The Jazz cut him after a year, and he ended up in Milwaukee before they too cut him to make room for Sean Kilpatrick. He’s currently playing for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate.

At the recent G-League Showcase that took place from Jan. 10-13, Bolomboy had one of the best performances of the event. In the two games played, he averaged 25.5 points per game on 73 percent shooting from the field and 13.0 rebounds. He was named to the All-Showcase First Team. He’s had eight double-doubles so far in the G-League this season. He’s already gotten his feet wet in the NBA, and if he continues putting up similar production, it won’t be long before he finds himself back on an NBA roster.

5. Jeremy Evans

Jeremy Evans is a name that should be somewhat familiar to NBA fans. He’s spent six years in the league with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also participated in two dunk contests in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for him, dunking was probably the one thing he was known for. It might be why he found himself out of the league after only six years.

With the Erie Bay Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate, his 15.9 points per game are good enough for fourth on the team. His 62.3 percent shooting from the field is a team-high, as is his 10.3 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks. Not known as a shooter during his time in the NBA, he’s only shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range in the G-League. If he can get his outside shooting percentages up, he has a shot at getting an NBA call-up and keeping that spot permanently.

Although there’s no guarantee that any of these guys get NBA call-ups on ten-day contracts, they have some of the best shots out of anyone in the G-League. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, all of these guys finish it out on an NBA roster.

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NBA Daily: Potential Trade Targets to Get the Sixers to the Playoffs

On the cusp of a playoff appearance for the first time in six years, the Philadelphia 76ers could cement their postseason status with a move at the trade deadline.

Dennis Chambers

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At times this season, the Philadelphia 76ers look like they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best teams. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at their disposal, along with capable three-point shooters, the Sixers have shown flashes of being a force to be reckoned with.

And at other times, well, they look like a discombobulated young team, with serious flaws in the construction of its roster.

Despite the lapses they display, the Sixers are still right in the thick of the playoff race. Currently, at 21-20, they hold a half-game advantage over the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

While they await the return of top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who has still yet to hit the court after being shut down earlier this season with a shoulder injury, the Sixers will continue to miss depth on the wing and a particular skill set that holds them back from winning games they seem to have locked up with double-digit leads. For all the greatness that is Embiid, and all of the promise that is Simmons, when the former isn’t on the court, the latter struggles to shoulder the scoring load due to his inability to shoot jump shots.

Initially, that’s what Fultz was drafted for. A player that head coach Brett Brown has said many times before, has the talent to tie everything together with the Sixers’ roster. What he means by that is Fultz represents a scorer from multiple levels of the court who forces the defense to lock in on, potentially leaving the teams’ shooters open on the wing.

Without Fultz, and when Embiid is on the bench, the team lacks a player who can put the ball on the floor, create and knock down jumpers. Although long-term success is still very much the attention for Philadelphia, that doesn’t discount the fact that a team that finished with 10 wins just two seasons ago is on the verge of making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2011-12 with a core of young, promising players.

Because of that possibility, and because of the clear holes in team’s makeup that could prevent this from happening, the Sixers could become an interesting player at the trade deadline — especially considering the names that appear available, according to reports.

It’s no secret that Sixers’ president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo wants to keep financial flexibility heading into this summer, that’s the main reason players like J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson were signed to one-year deals last offseason. Before the team has to start signing their own players to big extensions, the Sixers are in a unique position where they not only have elite homegrown talent, but the money to complement those players the best they can. Because of that, any deal that would return a player with money on the books past this season seems unlikely.

That being said, it just so happens that two players potentially on the trading block right now fulfill the Sixers’ most crucial need, and also aren’t on the hook for money past this year. Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Rodney Hood could be moved before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and that multiple teams are expressing interest in his services.

Along with Hood, Stein also reported that Lou Williams, who’s been the center of many trade talks around the league given his career-year and impending free agent status, was involved in specific discussions that would send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What should intrigue the Sixers about these two players is not only their ability on the court but also their flexibility off of it.

Let’s start with Hood. Before the rise of Donovan Mitchell this season, Hood looked to be in a position to assume the role as the dominant scorer on the Utah Jazz following Gordon Hayward’s departure. At just 25 years old and in the final year of his rookie contract, Hood may not be worth the price tag for Utah this summer considering their find with Mitchell.

Should the Jazz actually move on from Hood, it’s unclear what they would ask for in return at this point. Yes, Hood his an impending free agent, which could diminish his value. But the team trading for him would assume his Bird Rights, therefore giving them a better shot at retaining him this summer should they choose to do so.

The best part about his potential fit in Philadelphia is that he fits the timeline of the rebuild while also addressing a need in the present. Being just 25, Hood fits alongside the core of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Dario Saric and Robert Covington as a young player. If the Sixers were to miss out on whoever they were planning to target with their financial flexibility this summer, Hood would still be there to plug in for years with a contract extension.

Shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, and displaying the track record of being able to fill up the score sheet, Hood could become the go-to-scorer for Philadelphia when Embiid isn’t on the court, or late in games when they need to stop an opposing team’s run.

While he appears to at least be on the table as of now, Hood is certainly worth checking in on from the Sixers’ standpoint.

Now, onto Williams. Drafted by Philadelphia all the back in 2005 with the 45th overall pick, Williams is enjoying the best season of his career for the Los Angeles Clippers. At 31, he doesn’t represent the long-term upside that Hood does, but for this season alone, bringing Williams on to this current Sixers’ roster could be that extra jolt to get them cleanly into the postseason.

Averaging 23 points per game and shooting 41 percent from downtown, Williams fits the role as an iso-scorer better than any player on the Sixers’ current roster. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, Williams could assume the role Fultz was supposed to this season.

Another interesting ripple to the potential Williams fit is that he was on the last Sixers’ roster to make the playoffs. Adding him to this roster would bring his career full circle. This summer, Williams is most likely going to test the market and given his age and potential price tag he may not fit so well into the Sixers’ plans moving forward. But with his history with the club and city, getting him on board for another playoff run with an exciting young team could arguably help in the negotiation process this offseason.

Neither of these potential trades are slam dunks, and it remains to be seen if either player will even be moved. But for where the Sixers stand currently, coupled with their growing postseason expectations, checking in around the league on trade targets that can fulfill obvious needs should be at the forefront of Colangelo’s agenda for the next few weeks.

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Payton Blocking Out Trade Talk, Believes Magic Will Turn It Around

Spencer Davies sits down with Elfrid Payton to discuss his fourth year, trade rumors and a trying season for Orlando in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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It’s hard for a team to look for positives when it’s living in the basement.

The Orlando Magic have had a rough go of it this year. They’re 13-32 at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, they’ve have had a ton of setbacks, and they currently rank 29th in the NBA in defensive rating.

There is a bright spot hidden in there, though, and head coach Frank Vogel sees it growing as the season progresses.

“We’re frustrated with our record, but we’re encouraged with the development we’ve had with our young players,” Vogel said before Thursday’s game in Cleveland. “Aaron Gordon, Mario [Hezonja], and [Elfrid Payton] have all had strong individual seasons and continue to get better. All those guys are improving individually and at some point, it’s gonna lead to more Ws.”

While Gordon stands out more to some than the others because of his star appeal, Payton is right up there with him as far as making the next step goes.

“Elfrid’s shooting the ball better from the perimeter and at the rim,” Vogel said. “He’s worked on his left hand. He’s worked on his floaters. Shooting 52 percent from the field and that’s pretty darn good for a point guard, and the 39 percent from the three as well.”

Those are your more traditional statistics that don’t address the leap he’s taken in efficiency. Sure, Payton’s scoring the same amount of points per game, but it’s the way he’s been getting that’s been most noticeable.

According to Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, he’s making nearly 70 percent of his tries between 0-3 feet and ranks third among point guards in restricted field goal percentage (min. four attempts).

But Payton doesn’t like to evaluate himself using numbers, so he doesn’t know how to feel about how he’s played for Orlando this year.

“It’s tough to say because I like to measure my success by winning and we haven’t been doing that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “So tough to say.”

He’s not kidding. Since starting out the season 8-4, the Magic have taken a hard fall, only winning five games since November 10. In this stretch, there have been three hefty losing streaks—two 9-game slides and most recently a 7-game skid.

“Not to make excuses—we had a lot of injuries,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of what happened. “Haven’t really been playing with the group of guys that we started the season with, so kinda derailed us a little bit.”

As the losses pile up, so does the chatter. Indicated by multiple recent reports, Orlando has made it clear that many players on the roster are available on the trade block. Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Payton were recently brought up as names who could possibly on the move if the right deal presents itself.

When asked about the rumblings, Vogel claimed he doesn’t have a message for his guys.

“They understand it’s part of the business,” he said. “Just focus on playing the game.”

Like his coach, Payton doesn’t have a reaction to the noise.

“I don’t get caught up into the things like that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Today I’m an Orlando Magic. I play for the Orlando Magic and I’m gonna give them 100 percent of me. I’m somebody that likes to finish what I started, so I definitely would like to see this through and try to turn this organization around.”

So who does he see on this team that can help jump-start the process in flipping the script?

“Everybody,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I like Vuc. I like AG. Evan [Fournier] is somebody who can fill it up. T Ross is somebody who can fill it up when healthy. I think we have a lot of talent on this team. Even the rookies—Wes [Iwundu] plays well for us in stretches. Jon [Isaac] when he was playing he’d do well.

“You could see the potential there. So I think we have a lot of weapons on this team. I’m very confident in the group we have here. I think we have a lot of talent, we just have to do it.”

Saying you’re going to right the ship is one thing. Actually doing it is a whole other challenge. With where the Magic sit in the standings currently, their work is cut out for them. That being said, Payton isn’t giving up.

In fact, he’s still got his eyes on making it to the postseason, and it starts with him.

“Definitely trying to get a run going,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Make a playoff push. It’s definitely not out of sight right now, especially with the way the East is. We win a few games and we right back in the thick of things.

“Do whatever I can to help us to get more wins, man. I think that’s what it all boils down to. I figure if I’m playing well, that means we’re winning for the most part.”

Defense matters the most, and it’s something Payton and his group know they need to get better at if they have a chance to play past mid-April.

“Just be tied in together a little bit more,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I think sometimes we have too many breakdowns on the backside. So just being more in-tune with each other.”

One thing is for sure—Orlando is going through this difficult time as a team, but refuses to fold. Payton says Vogel has constantly stayed in their ears with uplifting advice.

“Keep fighting,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of his words. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. No one’s gonna feel sorry for you, so just keep fighting.”

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