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.