Hibbert said his problems were rooted in a right wrist injury that he originally suffered in a collision with James during the Pacers’ loss to Miami in last postseason’s conference semifinals. He aggravated the injury at some point during the season, though he isn’t sure when.
“I didn’t realize I had a problem until I started lifting in the weight room and it felt really weak and our specialist was like, ‘Wow, this is really bad.’ It affected my touch and everything, my feel for the game,” Hibbert said. “I just relied on my defense and luckily I turned some things around once I got it fixed.”
While Hibbert struggled, his teammates carried on, with George emerging as an all-star and veteran David West serving as a stabilizing force in the locker room and on the court.
“The team moved on and now I’m catching back up,” Hibbert said. “I feel like I’m back to form now.”
He is also confident in the Pacers’ chances to upset the Heat.
“We feel like we’re built for them,” he said. “We may not have three or four superstars, but I feel like we have a team full of guys who have the same mentality of playing smart, playing together and having one focus.”
Hibbert earned his spot among Georgetown’s lineage of all-star big men that includes Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo by working diligently to improve each season. Hoyas Coach John Thompson III helped him learn simply how to run properly. Former Pacers president Larry Bird, who drafted Hibbert 17th overall in 2008, hooked him up with Bill Walton to develop his skills. And during the lockout that shortened the 2011-12 season, Hibbert took it upon himself to join Washington Wizards center Nene and San Antonio’s Tiago Splitter at Spurs star Tim Duncan’s house for a few days of intense workouts. For those who saw him in college, or even as a plodding high school player at Georgetown Prep, the success might seem stunning — but not to Hibbert.
“I always wanted to be an all-star. I always wanted to be in the NBA. I never wanted to settle,” Hibbert said. “People could say this, that and the other about how I played, how I moved and things like that, but I had confidence in myself, no matter what anybody else said.”