Roy Hibbert headed straight for the locker room Monday after the Pacers' 99-76 loss to the Heat in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, bypassing any congratulatory handshakes or hugs.
The Indianapolis Star reported that Hibbert didn't mean any disrespect to the Heat with his quick exit.
“I know some of our guys have played on teams with some of them, but I don’t know them personally,” Hibbert explained. “It was their moment because they won. I have tremendous respect for them, but I don’t know any of those guys personally and I didn’t want to interrupt their moment.”
A number of Pacers players, including All-Star forward Paul George and guard Lance Stephenson, exchanged handshakes with members of the Heat after the final buzzer.
After faring well against LeBron James for much of the series, Hibbert said the 2013 MVP was simply too much to handle in the series-clinching victory.
"It was Game 7, he turned it on," Hibbert said of James, who finished with a game-high 32 points, eight rebounds and four assists. "Those guys have been battle-tested. Unfortunately we lost, but they've been through it before, and I think all their guys were making the right plays and making game-winning plays, because they've been through it before."
Still, Hibbert is part of an Indiana core that is well-positioned to make multiple deep playoff runs. He signed a four-year extension with the Pacers last summer, joining fellow starters George, Stephenson and George Hill, who are all under contract through next season. David West, the fifth piece of the puzzle, indicated Monday that he wants to re-sign with Indiana in free agency this summer.
"It's unfortunate we lost, but I couldn't be prouder of this team," Hibbert said. "We pushed each other in practice every day. We tried to get better every possession during the game. The future is bright."
Hibbert finished with 18 points (on 7-for-11 shooting) and eight rebounds in 38 minutes. He was a major force on the defensive end throughout the series, particularly in Indiana's three victories, but found himself in foul trouble during Game 7. This summer, the 7-foot-2 center said he will turn his attention to improving his quickness.
"Every summer I try to work on something different, whether it was cutting weight or putting on weight," he said. "But I think this summer I really have to work on foot speed. I think I do a good job of protecting the paint, but when I have to guard bigs that are on the perimeter that can hit shots and then can put it on the ground, I think I falter a little bit there."
Hibbert was fined $75,000 by the NBA for using "inappropriate and vulgar language" during his news conference after Indiana's Game 6 victory on Saturday.
The Heat advance to face San Antonio in the NBA Finals. Game 1 is Thursday in Miami.