It's been a while since an All-Star has struggled like Roy Hibbert has in these playoffs.
Since 1968, to be exact.
Only other player other than Roy Hibbert w/ consecutive scoreless playoff games after making All-Star team? Jim King in 1968. @EliasSports— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 2, 2014
Hibbert has twice been named an All-Star, first in 2012 and then again this season. His regular-season production has remained steady, but he's virtually disappeared in the first round of this year's playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks.
The 27-year-old center has averaged just four points and 3.2 rebounds in the series, in large part because he's only been able to stay on the floor 20.3 minutes per contest. In Games 5 and 6, he's only played a combined 24 minutes.
He somehow managed to collect eight personal fouls over that span, which is more than all the points, rebounds, blocks and assists he tallied.
In short, Hibbert has been anything but productive.
After Game 5, Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal advocated Hibbert stay on the bench, writing:
Glue his 7'2" frame to the pine and don't allow him to remove the warmups he wears before the opening tip until the Pacers are back in the locker room. If he wants to stand up and cheer, that's perfectly fine, but he shouldn't be able to cheer any of his own contributions.
Others have offered even stronger recommendations. Per The Washington Post's Jeffrey Tomik, ESPN's Stephen A. Smith suggested psychiatric help: "Roy Hibbert has to go see a psychologist. Something happened to him. He is 7'2", doesn’t score a point, doesn’t grab a rebound. It makes no sense. I can’t explain it."
The Pacers seem to be at a loss for explanation, too. But before Game 6, their best player had a thinly veiled suggestion.
Paul George: "it's time to switch things up and play a little smaller"— Bob Kravitz (@bkravitz) May 1, 2014
And yes, that probably means less of Hibbert—although it would be hard to play him less than the 12 minutes he averaged in Games 5 and 6.
Despite Hibbert's forgettable performances, Indiana evened its series with the Hawks at three games apiece on Thursday night. If you had to bet, you'd assume Hibbert sees limited time again on Saturday for Game 7. By now, it would be difficult for head coach Frank Vogel to justify expanded use of his ineffective big man, at least in this series.
The bigger question may be how Hibbert's affected in the long term. If there's something wrong with his head now, that's a problem bound to only get worse. After having become a non-factor at a time when his Pacers needed him most, Hibbert's confidence is almost certainly at an all-time low.
Should the Pacers get past the Hawks, they'll need a major turnaround from their man in the middle.