Roy Hibbert has bulked up to be more of a physical presence

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Roy Hibbert’s size and physicality in the paint was a key reason the Pacers came within a game of the NBA Finals — for all the things LeBron James and Dwyane Wade can figure out, Hibbert protecting the rim isn’t one of them.

So next year Hibbert is coming back bigger and stronger.

Hibbert,at 7’2″ with a ridiculous wingspan and pushing three bills already, has been working out and getting bigger. We’ve seen that in some photos of Hibbert floating around the Web this summer, and now we have confirmation from Pacers coach Frank Vogel, doing a radio interview in Indianapolis, as transcribed at Pacers.com.

“I think he’s got some photographers from Men’s Fitness on there doctoring them up or something because he looks pretty big in those pictures, doesn’t he? Naw, I’m just kidding. I saw him yesterday in my office. He’s really bulking up and really excited about just being even more of a physical presence, especially on the offensive end — really pounding defenders down low and playing our identify of smash-mouth basketball.”

Hibbert taking on more of an offensive role, plus the return of Danny Granger and a deeper bench that includes Luis Scola, Chris Copeland and C.J. Watson makes the Pacers one dangerous team next season. (Remember their bench hurt them in the playoffs last season, now they have upgraded.)

But it all comes back to a few key things (like Paul George and Granger melding) and one of those is Hibbert. If he is stronger, more physical and a complete beast in the paint the Pacers have a legitimate shot at knocking off Miami next season in the playoffs.

Rockets’ Clint Capela on Warriors: ‘I expect to beat them’

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During the 2014-15 season, Rockets star James Harden said the Warriors “ain’t even that good.”

Golden State went on to reach the last three NBA Finals, twice beating Houston in the playoffs, and win two championships.

The Rockets have since re-tooled around Harden, Chris Paul and several quality role players and are in first place. Houston looks like the biggest threat to the Warriors in the Western Conference.

Rockets center Clint Capela on the Warriors, via Dave Schilling of Bleacher Report:

“I expect to beat them,” Capela says.

That’s a fine sentiment. Saying it publicly is another matter. Not even Harden did that a couple years ago. He was recorded during a pregame team huddle.

There’s a fine line between self-fulfilling confidence and providing bulletin-board material to the opponent. There’s already some animosity between the teams stemming from the Stephen Curry-Harden MVP race in 2015, and it has bubbled since. No matter how harmless Capela’s remark might have been intended to be, it’ll be met contentiously in the Bay Area.

PBT Extra Player of the Week: Victor Oladipo

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Oklahoma City traded for Victor Oladipo out of Orlando to be their third scorer, behind Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. It didn’t exactly work out that way, Durant bolted town and when Westbrook went off Oladipo was looking for a place to fit in.

That place turned out to be the Pacers.

Oladipo has been playing like an All-Star this season with Indiana, and last week he was key in snapping Cleveland’s 13 game win streak, then turned around and dropped 47 points on Denver. For the week he averaged 35.7 points a game, shot 45.7 percent from three, plus grabbed 7.7 rebounds per game.

That will get you named the PBT Extra Player of the Week.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.