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Roy Hibbert Keeps Working After Successful Orlando Summer League

During the Indiana Pacers 5-0 run through the Orlando Pro Summer League, I saw Roy Hibbert do one thing more often than he did throughout all of his rookie season. He bent his knees.

Bent his knees on defense. Bent his knees while setting up in the post. Bent his knees after gathering the ball in the post to make a move.

An obvious point of emphasis in Hibbert's offseason work has been to focus on some basic fundamentals surrounding footwork and balance which don't come easy to 7'2", 270 pound centers. If you want to make an assertive, athletic move the first thing you have to do is bend your knees which helps create a sturdy base, then you're ready to make an athletic move wherever the action takes you.

Hibbert is far from a finished product in this one simple area, playing from an athletic base, and while he did make a concerted effort to bend his knees on both ends of the floor in Orlando, there were still plenty of possessions when Roy played straight up. Fatigue and old habits can sully the best of intentions. Still, the effort showed major progress. He's obviously thinking about how to position his body to succeed on the court. If Hibbert can make the solid footwork and balance an instinctual part of his game then he can become a beast by letting his mind shift all focus toward destroying his opponent. Until then, we'll note his progress along the way.

Of course, Roy's signs of progress weren't limited to his lower extremities, nor were the lingering areas of concern.

Hibbert averaged 20.2 points, 9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks in just over 28 minutes per game in Orlando. Summer league numbers aren't something to get too excited about but the nice thing about Roy's stats is the consistency he showed from game to game.

Fouls and Defense

Since you can't foul out in summer league, Hibbert was in no danger of losing playing time due to a fouling binge which really limited the big man's minutes last season. But just because the foul well was bottomless doesn't mean Hibbert (and everyone else in the organization) wasn't counting fouls. In fact, in a few interviews during camp Hibbert mentioned that he had some friendly wagers based on his foul per minute rate in Orlando.

No doubt, Roy collected on those bets since he made it through all five games averaging 2.8 fouls in 28:20 minutes per game. During the regular season Hibbert played in 70 games and averaged 3.1 fouls in 13:24 minutes. So despite doubling his minutes in Orlando, he halved his fouls per minute rate from .21 during the regular season to .1 in Orlando.

In Orlando, Roy was no longer the rookie on the floor drawing whistles with his mere presence which helped. But he also played with a little more savvy, putting himself in better position to defend the paint and avoiding needless fouls when he was caught in the wrong spot. During the regular season, Roy didn't always know what he was doing or where to be so made up for it by going as hard as he could while on the floor. If he was going to make a mistake it would be a mistake born from effort. Fortunately he learned that trying to draw a charge when you're a step late or reaching when caught off balance isn't productive effort but instead a foul. Hibbert's game wasn't free of sense-less fouls in Orlando but he looked like a different, far more confident player on the court.

Continuing to develop that defensive savvy is huge for Hibbert because even if he isn't a major defensive presence in the mold of Dikembe Mutombo, just being able to stay on the floor and keep that 7'2" body around the bucket can be a huge help on defense.

Offense

Hibbert showed plenty of promise at the offensive end throughout his rookie season. Wasn't always the pretties sight, but he ran the floor far better than expected and showed a nice touch around the hoop. In Orlando, he showed a nice array of moves out of the low post, finishing with both hands from all around the paint. My favorite move was a sweet little right-handed baseline hook that was automatic by week's end.

Again, Roy appeared much more comfortable in the post this summer with those bent knees and assertive moves, he was not only ready for the ball but wanted it and new what to do once he had it. He was also under control, gathering himself to make sure he wasn't offbalance before looking to score. Rushing through moves with his brain ahead of his body was a common flaw at times in Roy's game last season. It was nice to see Roy take his time and force the defense to handle his best move which often resulted in a trip to the free throw line.

Another positive area of Hibbert's game on display in Orlando was his solid passing ability. Having a better feel for the offense makes Roy a much more effective passer. When he has it going in the post and the defense has to account for him, Hibbert has no problem finding a cutter or a man left out in the corner for a 3-ball. Tyler Hansbrough and Hibbert were quite effective on the floor together with Hansbrough feeding the ball to Roy from the high post. When one would draw attention on the interior the other seemed to always be there to clean up any put-back buckets.

It's all about effort and hard work with Roy now which makes Hansbrough a nice running partner to keep Hibbert pushing the pace. Late in the week down in Orlando, Hibbert stunned everyone by diving on the floor to save a possession for the Pacers. Even the normally stoic Larry Bird couldn't help applauding the effort in the gym. The results Hibbert put up in Orlando should keep him motivated throughout the rest of the offseason to keep working and finding ways to improve. Coincidentally, the other day I was driving to work at 7:00AM when a car pulled up next to me. I look over and there was Roy Hibbert, like me, shaking off the morning cobwebs getting ready to go to work. Nice.