Our favorite off-season practice is back: centers working out with Hall of Fame centers in hopes of improving their games. Instead of taking the oft-traveled road of working out with former Houston Rockets center Hakeem Olaujwon, Roy Hibbert will be getting some tips from former Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Looking at Roy Hibbert’s game, it makes sense why he sought out Abdul-Jabbar rather than Hakeem Olajuwon. At 7’2, Hibbert lacks the mobility that Olajuwon had during his prime, as Hakeem often relied on quickness, agility, and speed to coerce his opposition. For Kareem, the six-time NBA champion and league MVP battered opponents to death with his famed “sky-hook”.
While Kareem will surely teach Hibbert some things that will help his offense progress (averaged 10.8 points on 43% shooting last season), the best way for Hibbert to progress as a center in the NBA–and improve upon the monstrosity that was the latter end of last season–would be to get in prime shape and lose some weight. What Hibbert struggled with most is his mobility. When in the paint, Hibbert managed to be a force, putting on one of the more impressive defensive centers the league has seen from a center.
But once Hibbert was pulled away from the basket (see the Atlanta-Indiana series for proof), he became borderline useless, unable to keep up with his man. This forced Frank Vogel to rely more-so on Ian Mahinmi down the stretch of games.
With Lance Stephenson in Charlotte, the Pacers will look to rely on Roy Hibbert much more than they had in the past. And with the 2014-15 season being a contract year, Hibbert will want to impress as much as he can to put himself in position for a pay cut come the summer of 2015.
Abdul-Jabbar’s lessons worked for Hibbert’s former teammate Andrew Bynum, and Hibbert’s sake, he’d better hope Jabbar’s training has a major impact or it’ll be another long season for the All-Star big man.