After leaving the game against Cleveland with a "headache," it became speculative: was it a coincidence Roy Hibbert took a blow from Dwight Howard, struggled the next two games, and left early on Tuesday night’s game?
According to him, "Yes," but Mike Wells helped in confirming that, saying the big fella took another elbow from Joey Graham and is doing right. So all appears to be right in the world of Roy Hibbert, even in him suggesting he wants to win the Most Improved Player award.
Talk about feasible. The Pacers have groomed three winners in the past decade; Jalen Rose, Jermaine O’Neal, and most recently, Danny Granger. It’s an award the franchise is no stranger to winning, and Hibbert is on the fast track to do so this year. Key for him? Keep going and make your case every night.
The competition doesn’t seem overly stiff this year, ESPN has him at the top of their list, but it seems like a couple of names could pop up and steal the thunder, but no one’s making the case better than Roy a month in. Paul Millsap of Utah is putting together an All-Star season (even if he’s not on the ballot), but detractors say we’ve seen Millsap play at this level when he got his chance to start. Millsap has improved his per minute numbers in shooting and scoring, even if his rebounding numbers aren’t terribly impressive.
I wouldn’t be so quick to discount Millsap, but it’s certainly understandable why he might not get the consideration. ESPN suggests Kevin Love and Michael Beasley of Minnesota are candidates. Both make sense. Love’s rebounding efforts are a sight to behold, and Beasley is stepping up big with impressive numbers for the second overall pick left for dead. Love’s per minutes numbers have been climbing gradually, not jumping large and it’s hard to tell if the improvement is because the Beasley are better, or if the opportunities are simply more prevalent.
Shannon Brown would be the biggest threat, but barring an injury getting him into the starting lineup, he should remain about ten inches shy of Roy’s advantage. It won’t be easy regardless, especially if teammate Brandon Rush could continue to show life as a breathing NBA player.
It’s a bit tough to be crowned Most Improved in November. After all, Granger didn’t start pulling in this talk until around the All-Star break, and that was fueled with debate dueling him with New Jersey’s Devin Harris, and also because Orlando’s Jameer Nelson, the early front runner, went out with a season that saw him miss action until the NBA Finals.
But if anyone is up for the challenge, it’s Hibbert.