Dikembe Mutombo: Georgetown Greats Should Help Roy Hibbert Fix 'Shocking' Woes

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 7, 2014

Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) during Game 7 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series between the Indiana Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks in Indianapolis, Saturday, May 3, 2014. The Pacers won 92-80. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
AJ MAST/Associated Press

Everybody's got an opinion on what's gone wrong with Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert, but Dikembe Mutombo's thoughts on the matter carry some extra weight.

Mutombo appeared on ESPN's First Take, and he had plenty to say about Hibbert's perplexing disappearance in the postseason. He started with a plea on behalf of the embattled big man, saying, "I want you guys to be nice to my boy."

That was necessary because not everyone has been particularly kind to poor No. 55.

The connection between Mutombo and Hibbert goes beyond their shared height and shot-blocking prowess. They both hail from a long line of Georgetown centers, along with greats such as Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing.

So when Hibbert takes heat for his horrendous postseason performance, Mutombo feels it right along with him. "His performance is not what everyone expected it to be, and I think it's a little bit disappointing to us as a family," he said.

Others have been more direct in their criticisms.


Mutombo also discussed the frightening frequency of Hibbert's statistical goose eggs. Indy's big man went scoreless in Games 5 and 6 against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round, then did the same in Game 1 against the Washington Wizards.

"For him to go scoreless, I don't remember the last time I saw something like this in the playoffs. It's very shocking," Mutombo said. "We all need to talk to him. He might need some insight from us. ... We've been there."

Maybe Mutombo, Mourning and Ewing orchestrated an intervention before Game 2. What else could possibly explain the startling revival the Pacers center underwent?

Hibbert was a changed man in the contest, knocking down shots early and often, defending the paint more effectively than he had in weeks and generally looking much more like the dominant presence he once was. He played his best game of the postseason, and the Pacers notched a desperately needed 86-82 win to even the series.

The response at Bankers Life Fieldhouse reinforced the sympathetic tone of Mutombo's critiques.

Despite his disappearance in recent weeks, Hibbert still has loads of supporters.

And if it wasn't a sit-down chat with Mutombo that straightened Hibbert out, maybe it was the subtraction of a notorious locker-room poisoner.

Hibbert wouldn't be the first guy to perform better without Andrew Bynum around, and we know for certain he was a whole lot more effective before Mr. Damaged Goods showed up in Indiana.

Mutombo's last key line of the interview is the one that resonates with the most truth. He said: "His teammates need him. Indiana will not pass the Washington Wizards if Hibbert doesn't show up. That's the bottom line. We have to tell the truth."

If Hibbert's Game 2 resurrection is real, the Pacers won't be completely out of the woods. The issues with this team are bigger than any one player, and it's going to take a full offseason of soul-searching and maybe even some group therapy to sort out the mess that developed after the All-Star break.

But, boy, would Indiana like to see the league's most impactful defender back at full strength. Paul George is the Pacers' superstar, but Hibbert is its foundation, its key defensive cog. If he finds his stride, everything else—the chemistry issues, the broken offense and the missing confidence—might follow behind.

Mutombo's voice is a powerful force, and not just because it sounds like gravel spinning around in a Cuisinart set to puree. Apparently, it can effect real change.