When the Indiana Pacers wound up with the 1-seed in the East, a lot of people thought they would be okay. They thought the Pacers would turn it around and make a deep playoff run.
Three games into their first-round series with Atlanta, however, the Pacers have looked as bad as they have all season – and Roy Hibbert is a big reason why.
In three games against Atlanta, Hibbert is averaging 6.0 points on 28 percent shooting from the floor – that’s right, 28 percent shooting from the floor – and just 4.7 rebounds.
And this isn’t just a playoff thing, either. Over his last seven games, Hibbert has shot just 10-of-53 from the floor. That’s 18.9 percent shooting and an average of 3.9 points per game.
At this point, don’t you have to bench Hibbert?
“I think you do,” NBA.com writer Sekou Smith said on The Morning Show. “I just think it’s such a tough thing because you’re talking about a team that already has a really fragile psyche. If you take Roy Hibbert out of that starting lineup and you somehow manage to get through this series, I don’t know what he has for you going forward. I don’t know if mentally and emotionally he’ll be able to bounce back and play at a high enough level to survive the next round.”
What happened to this guy? Hibbert was an All-Star, he was a force in the paint on both ends of the floor, and he was the biggest advantage the Pacers would have against the Miami Heat.
And now, he looks like he doesn’t even belong in the league.
“(They have) no explanation for his struggles,” Smith said of the Pacers. “If you listen to what his teammates said after (Game 3), they have no explanation. They’ve done everything they can. David West said, ‘Hey, we’re talking to him. We’re trying to keep is spirits up.’”
It reminds Smith of his son’s AAU team – “where you’re trying to repair the psyche of kids who get down on themselves for not playing well and don’t do the things they’re supposed to be doing.”
Whatever is happening with Hibbert, it’s a major issue now, and it’ll be a major issue going forward.
“This is a bigger problem than just this one series,” Smith said. “This is something Larry Bird’s going to have to really tackle in the offseason. Guys, I mean this: If they lose this series – everybody’s talking about Frank Vogel and his job being in jeopardy – I guarantee you Roy Hibbert will be on the trading block. He’ll be a movable piece this summer if they finish this series on the wrong side of the ledger.”
Game 4 is Saturday in Atlanta at 2 p.m. ET.
Elsewhere in the East, the Wizards head back to Washington up 2-0 against Chicago. Smith sees in Washington a team that could not only win this series, but also advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and legitimately challenge the Heat.
“People unfortunately don’t see a lot of these teams until we get on the playoff stage,” Smith said. “They’re handling the Bulls right now. They’ve got to be very careful. You go home up 2-0 and you think, ‘Hey, we got this thing in the bag.’ (But you can’t) get complacent. A quality team, a veteran team with a great coach like Tom Thibodeau, they’ll come back and embarrass you. They’ll make you wish you never got out ahead like that in the series.
“But if they stay the course and keep playing the way they played in Chicago,” Smith continued, “they got a chance to not only win that series, (but also) to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. And they could be a problem for the Miami Heat because they have big guys who can score and attack you around the rim – and that is the one Achilles that the Heat have.”
Game 3 between the Wizards is Bulls is Friday at 8 p.m. ET.