Whistles don't impact Roy Hibbert's life like they used to.
The second-year center has fouled out of three games so far this season, compared to last season when when he fouled out of five. Although, I'd argue Hibbert fouled himself out of several more games last season since a quick burst of fouls forced him to the bench in a number of games and once there he rarely returned for significant action. He was a rookie after all, so Jim O'Brien would just let him sit and watch.
This season the flurry of whistles aimed at Hibbert have been nearly non-existent. Hibbert is playing ten more minutes per game this year, but his fouls per minute are down by a third from .213 last season to .146 so far this season.
He's still developing, but the strides Hibbert has shown have been a much-needed positive sign for the team thus far. Many fouls last season were a by-product of inexperience, as Hibbert found himself a step behind the play or simply a step or two out of position. In his haste to catch up with the play,the big fella would end up off-balance or a little out of control and any contact looked awkward and worthy of a whistle.
This season he's remained aggressive and physical, but is allowed to play more because he's in better position to defend.
"I want to play hard and I know what I can do now," Hibbert said last week."I'm going to keep playing extremely aggressive, try to score in the post and block shots looking to make plays."
That's the key to Hibbert's improvement this year.
Instead of trying to avoid foul trouble, Hibbert is looking to make plays thanks to a better understanding of how to play the game. His offensive post game seems to improve with every touch. When he doesn't rush his moves down low he's a handful for opponent using either hand. The offense seems to work much better in the half court when the ball goes into the post, although that can be a rare occurrence at times.
The second half of the San Antonio game last week was a perfect example of how far Hibbert has come this season. He was working his tail off at both ends and helped push the Pacers back into contention for a win. He also took on three different types of post players and adapted well to each. DeJuan Blair is bulky and active in the middle but Hibbert just smothered his every move and eventually sent the rookie to the bench in favor of seasoned veteran big man, Antonio McDyess. Hibbert maintained his advantage against the vet until Tim Duncan was called on to work in the post.
Duncan had a rough shooting night but was a beast on the boards that night. But this wasn't about whether or not Hibbert was outplayed by the Hall of Famer. How he played the Hall of Famer showed the development. Hibbert was working hard at both ends at the end of a long playing rotation against a fresh Duncan. The two were banging in the middle for position and Hibbert held his own while avoiding needless fouls. In fact, he played as if fouls were the last thing on his mind.
Developing that mindset has been a huge boost for Hibbert's game this season and is the only way he can produce on a consistent basis. So as we continue watching Hibbert's NBA game develop, watch for that consistent production as yet another sign of growth.