By Mark Montieth
Isaac Newton is recognized as the father of gravity. Albert Einstein gets the nod for relativity. Cosmic expansion? Edwin Hubble is your man.
And now we present Roy Hibbert, the master of verticality.
“I created that,” he said after contributing five blocked shots to the the Pacers’ dismantling of New Orleans on Friday.
That might be a bit of stretch, since verticality can no more be created than gravity. Hibbert, however, might deserve credit for refining and popularizing the vertical approach to defending the foul lane, which explains why his blocked shots average has dropped since the start of the season but his impact perhaps has improved.
Hibbert has taken fewer shots than all the starters but one. Saturday, he took just seven. His wing players, Paul George and Lance Stephenson, attack the boards so aggressively that he half-jokingly complains about them stealing rebounds from him. He doesn’t get to handle the ball much, so assists come infrequently.
So what’s left for him to show off in a box score? Blocked shots, mainly. But his coach has been telling him to back off from trying to get those. It’s enough to make a guy feel paranoid, if he were so inclined.
Hibbert had five blocked shots against the Pelicans on Saturday, a throwback to early in the season when he led the league. He had seven blocks in the season-opener, five in the second game, seven in the fourth and eight in the ninth, at which point he was averaging 4.2 blocks per game and was the early-season leader for the Defensive Player of the Year award. A week later, he blocked six more, and maintained the lead.
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