Roy Hibbert was viewed as a key player for the Pacers during two straight trips to the Eastern Conference Finals. But his time in the good graces of both head coach Frank Vogel and team president Larry Bird appears to have come to a close.
Indiana missed the playoffs this year (just barely), thanks mostly to All-Star Paul George being sidelined for the bulk of the regular season. At exit interviews, however, both Bird and Vogel made it clear that the organization is ready for a change to a more uptempo style — one that would lead to a diminished role for Hibbert next season.
There’s a lot more to this, but first, the quotes — via Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star:
“I was talking to coach earlier, we’d like to play a little faster tempo,” Bird said. “And that means we’ve got to run a little faster, maybe at times play a little smaller. We just got into it, so I don’t know what style, but we’d like to change it a little bit. … But I would like to score more points and to do that you’ve got to run.” …
When asked if Hibbert would be benched next year as Indiana pushes for more a quicker pace, Vogel responded: “Yeah, potentially.
“We’ll have to see how it all plays out and what the roster ultimately looks like but there’s a possibility that Roy’s role will be diminished, if we’re trying to play faster and trying to play smaller,” Vogel continued. “But a lot of stuff is going to happen this summer, we’ll see how the roster shapes out coming into next season.” …
Though Bird appeared hopeful that power forward David West, 34, will take his player option and stick around, he sounded less sure about Hibbert. When it comes to Hibbert, the unknown may be the only thing that’s apparent.
“Roy, I have no idea,” Bird said. “We just talked about different things and whatever he does, he does. I don’t know what he’s going to do.”
If all of these remarks are indeed sincere, then Bird and Vogel deserve a ton of credit for being so honest with reporters in discussing the franchise’s future plans.
But it’s worth noting that there may be a very real ulterior motive in play.
Hibbert has a player option for next season for $15.5 million; these comments make it seem as though the team would rather he opt out and explore his options as a free agent instead.
But the smarter thing to do would be for Indiana to hope he opts in, and then trade him for something of value in return — if in fact they’re ready to go in a completely different direction in terms of style, as Bird and Vogel seemed to discuss so candidly now that the Pacers season has finished.