All the numbers suggest the NBA teams should go small, the influx of speedy point guards and outside shooters forcing the game to put less of an emphasis on size and power.
But to break that trend, Lakers center Roy Hibbert wants to take advantage of another number. His weight. Hibbert spent a significant chunk of his offseason losing 15 pounds in fat, so he would no longer become seen as a plodding big man.
“With how the NBA is going, you have a lot of quick centers,” Hibbert said on Monday at the Lakers’ Media Day at their practice facility in El Segundo. “It’s changed some things up. But I feel I’m in a place where I can hold my own in the post and get up and down the court.”
One of those centers includes Golden State’s Andrew Bogut, whose contributions Hibbert believes quickly became overshadowed with the outside shooting from Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson’s emergence as well as the defense from Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. Yet, the 7-foot Bogut still landed on the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team and finished sixth in Defensive Player of the Year votes despite averaging a career-low 23.6 minutes per game.
“He didn’t score a lot, and he’s not the fastest guy out there. No disrespect to him,” Hibbert said of Bogut. “He was a friend of mien and I’ve known him for a while. I admire his game and how he sacrifices what he does to help his team win a championship. I don’t mind being the older guy that has to sacrifice and be the defensive anchor.”
Hibbert sure had to sacrifice in his last season with the Indiana Pacers. He averaged only 10.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in 25.3 minutes amid the Pacers’ quest to player smaller and faster. The Pacers then traded Hibbert to the Lakers for only a second round pick just to expend his $15.51 million salary. But the Lakers are leaning on Hibbert’s credentials as a former two-time All-Star and an All-NBA second defensive team member to revamp the Lakers after finishing 29th out of 30 NBA teams in defensive efficiency.
Hibbert embraced that concept, mindful that his role could ease Kobe Bryant’s burden and enable him to have a successful comeback after nursing three season-ending injuries in consecutive years.
“He’s one of the greatest players to play the game,” Hibbert said of Bryant. “I’m expecting him to do what he does. Im going to be sure im ready to go to help him out and fall in line. I expected him to be what he’s always been, and I’ll be here to help.”
Part of that hinges on Hibbert’s dieting. He listened to the Lakers’ feedback in varying his eating times and nourishing his body with more protein. He did not listen to the voice inside his head.
“Would I like to have a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting? Yeah, I would,” Hibbert said, laughing. “But this is part of my game.”
Hibbert will find out on Tuesday how much of a difference that made, his first step in countering the analytics suggest his decreased value in a league lacking traditional big men.
“I’ll see how it goes after training camp,” Hibbert said. “So if any of you guys make the trip to Hawaii, Ill have an answer for you.”