Roy Hibbert has become one of the biggest stories of the 2014 NBA playoffs, as the Indiana Pacers big man has suddenly become a shell of the 7'2" behemoth who made the All-Star squad earlier this season.
He's turned into one of the biggest punchlines on the interwebs, and for good reason. Unable to make much of a defensive impact, incapable of grabbing rebounds despite his height advantage and scarily inept when it comes to putting the ball in the basket, Hibbert has given Frank Vogel every reason to bench him throughout the rest of the Pacers' playoff run.
As Bleacher Report's Sean Hojnacki wrote, "After some were ready to anoint him as the second coming of Dikembe Mutombo a year ago, he looked more like John Amaechi circa 2002 in the Game 5 setback."
But what triggered this? We have no idea, largely relying on speculation rather than fact.
Perhaps part of the issue was a blow to his confidence, one that occurred when the Pacers signed Andrew Bynum midway through the 2013-14 campaign. The 7-footer who has spent time with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls (kind of) and Pacers this season has since been sent home, according to an official release from Indiana, but he's still making a lasting impact.
"Bringing Bynum aboard rankled Hibbert, a source told NBA.com, when coach Frank Vogel ran plays to get Bynum involved offensively that he rarely calls for Hibbert," reported NBA.com's Steve Aschburner.
Instead of looking at the splits before and after Bynum signed with Indiana, as Aschburner does, let's instead move the differentiating date to March 11, when the big man received 15 minutes and 37 seconds of action against the Boston Celtics and lofted up four shot attempts. After all, Bynum was inactive for over two months after signing with the team on Jan. 31, so Hibbert had no reason to be upset until the later date.
|Pre March 11||11.4||7.3||46.3|
|Post March 11||8.5||4.1||34.2|
Seems suspicious, does it not?
But in order to make sure that Bynum's involvement isn't just a confounding variable, let's look at the 10 games just prior to the 7-footer's first action in an Indiana uniform. During those games—which spanned from Feb. 19 to March 9—Hibbert averaged 9.8 points and 5.3 rebounds while shooting 46.1 percent from the field.
Over the five games just prior, he averaged 8.2 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest with a 43.6 field-goal percentage.
Based solely on those numbers, it appears as though Hibbert was already declining, and that downward spiral was aggravated by this issue. After all, the Georgetown product has held himself accountable for his failures and doesn't seem like the type to make convenient excuses.
"I've got to come out and be aggressive. I've got to be a different Roy Hibbert than I've been," the big man said after posting goose eggs in the rebounding and points columns in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Washington Wizards, per Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star.
Perhaps the Pacers officially cutting ties with Bynum will be the confidence boost Hibbert so desperately needs.
Indiana could certainly use him.