Indiana had a successful and impressive postseason despite being unable to complete its upset of Miami in the Eastern Conference finals. At the center of that effort was center Roy Hibbert, who, over the course of this season and the playoffs, progressively became a more viable force on both ends of the floor.
Never was his impact and import more obvious than against the Heat. In the seven-game slugfest with the defending champions, Hibbert averaged 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds and prevented one of the best offensive teams in the league from getting to the rim. Hibbert's defense, rebounding and interior scoring helped pull the Pacers within one victory of the NBA Finals, which is quite an achievement for a team so young.
SI.com had a chance to talk with Hibbert -- in conjunction with his promotion for Call of Duty: Ghosts and other Activision titles -- about his development as a player, the role of the center in today's NBA and his possible interest in LARPing (Live Action Role Playing), among other things.
SI: It was obviously a tough out for you guys in the Eastern Conference finals, but where do you see this Pacers team improving going into next year?
Roy Hibbert: We have the chance to bring [free-agent power forward] David West back and he wants to come back. So we have a great core, and we have an ever-improving bench. We're just solid. And look, once Danny Granger gets healthy, I think we'll be even better than we were before.
SI: Speaking of West, I've heard you say in other interviews that he helped define the personality of the team. What exactly do you mean by that? How did he set the example?
RH: Well, before David got here, we were soft. All we would do is shoot threes and that was it. So, I mean, he came here and he brought ... confidence. Nobody was going around trying to fight anybody, but we played hard, we played together and played as a team.
SI: What are you looking to improve on this summer?
RH: Just my quickness, getting stronger. I just need to work on my conditioning and strength.
SI: From last season to this season, it seemed like you really improved the way you move around the court -- whether running the floor, rebounding or just getting to your spot on the block. Everything seemed to come a bit more easily. Was that a target of yours going into last summer as well?
RH: I think it was the fact that I just got comfortable. At the same time, it doesn't come overnight. So it was fun, but it's hard work. After every practice, I was working. Before practice, I was working. After games, I'd lift. So it's a process -- it doesn't come overnight.
SI: From your perspective, did it seem like it was more of a physical change for you? Was it the conditioning and the weight work or was it --
RH: Well, I had a slight injury in my wrist [early in the season], so there were times where the ball would go up and it didn't seem to go where I wanted. When I was all healed up, I started playing better.
SI: When people talk about positions in the NBA, there's a weird, pervasive opinion that the center is a dying breed or somehow inferior to what it used to be. What are your thoughts on that and the types of players filling the center spot in today's game?
RH: I mean, some people like centers who can jump, dunk -- this, that, or the other. Be on SportsCenter. I'm not like that in terms of athletics. But I just work on my post game and try to be as solid as possible. Maybe we are the last of a dying breed, but more and more people want to go work out with Hakeem Olajuwon and work on their post moves, you know? That's great in the summer, but you have to do it during the season as well. So I worked with Tim Duncan on my face-up game and I worked on it a lot, but you tend to revert to what you know as the season gets going.
SI: Have you been watching the Finals? Or are you taking a break from basketball?
RH: I watched the first two games, but I didn't watch [Tuesday] night's game.
SI: What did you think of the first two?
RH: It was good -- it was good basketball. People say the Spurs are boring, but they're wrong. [The Spurs are] just efficient with what they're doing. They've built this over the past 10 years.
SI: You mentioned working out with Tim Duncan. What is your relationship with him like?
RH: Well, I met him when I was a kid -- in 2001 during the NBA All-Star Game in D.C. I actually had a chance to meet him, and he actually remembers that moment. So that was pretty fun. We talk, text, share, like, scouting reports on other teams and things like that. I sent him mine for the Heat. Just a friendship.
SI: How do those kinds of relationships work where it's guys you're competing against who are also mentors and friends?
RH: To tell the truth, when we compete against each other, we have respect. We're friends off the court. But on the court, he's trying to go at [me] and I'm trying to go at [him]. We've gotta make sure our teams win. But I learn from him, and -- you know, he's the best, so I don't know if he picks anything up from me. But I definitely learn from him.
SI: So what are you up to at E3 this week?
RH: I'm a brand ambassador for Call of Duty. I play it a lot. I only got my hand on the [new] game a couple days ago, and I've been watching all the gameplay, got to meet all the developers and designers, put a face to the weapons -- the people who [design] the weapons, who make the campaign, the multiplayer maps. So it's definitely fun.
SI: What has that experience been like in terms of going behind the scenes of something it sounds like you play a lot?
RH: I'm not gonna lie -- the only game I play is really Call of Duty. I came here and [Activision] showed me Skylanders: SWAP Force and I played that for like an hour and a half the other day. I'm a gamer at heart -- a hardcore gamer. And there are some other games they have under their franchise that are pretty good.
SI: I saw on Twitter that you went LARPing this afternoon, so you have to give me a breakdown. How'd you do?
RH: [Laughing] I was joking! But I've heard of it and I actually want to go see people who actually do that. But that was a joke.*
*A damn shame, but Hibbert agreed in our interview that he had the reach to dominate the LARP battlefield and followed up on Twitter later Wednesday afternoon: https://twitter.com/Hoya2aPacer/status/344960128019210240