The Indiana Pacers opened up the second round of the playoffs in much the same way as they opened the first round — losing home-court advantage to a lower-seeded team that came into their gym, shot the lights out, rolled up a big lead and never looked back. The Washington Wizards took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinals series with a 102-96 win that featured a breakout all-around game (25 points, seven rebounds, seven assists, five steals) by second-year shooting guard Bradley Beal, a perfect 6-for-6 3-point outing from swingman Trevor Ariza, ice-cold evenings for Indy offensive linchpins Paul George and Lance Stephenson (31 combined points on 8-for-30 shooting) ... and another forgettable performance by haunted Pacers center Roy Hibbert.
The All-Star center spent the lion's share of the Pacers' quarterfinal matchup with the Atlanta Hawks — and most of the last 2 1/2 months of the regular season, too — failing to make much of an impact on the court, rendered all but obsolete by an Atlanta offense determined to neutralize his rim protection by spreading the floor, and by his own persistent offensive struggles. Hibbert averaged four points and 3.2 rebounds per game on 30.3 percent shooting through the first six games of the Atlanta series, going scoreless in just under 25 total minutes of playing time in Games 5 and 6 combined. It looked like he might have turned the corner in Game 7, as he chipped in 13 points with seven rebounds and five blocks in Indy's series-clinching victory, but in the opener of the series against the Wizards — a series that All-Star teammate George said would be "his round" — Hibbert was once again a no-show, scoring no points and grabbing no rebounds in 18 foul-limited minutes as Indy fell.
Such performances tend to elicit jokes, and Hibbert's been on the receiving end of more than his fair share of shots as his troubles have come under the national spotlight. On Monday night, the social-media razzing came from a pair of former All-Stars:
"I made the all-star but through 3 quarters these are my stats lmaoooo," Gilbert Arenas wrote over a pixelated Photoshop originally created by Steve Noah of Operation Sports and later stolen by a "memes" account.
"The answer was (where was Roy hibbert) he's softer then baby s***," Arenas wrote.
Any other volume-shooting guards of the 2000s want to weigh in on Hibbert? Got any zingers, Steve Francis? Been working up any bits, Allen Iverson?
On one hand, the taunts from out-of-the-league types like Tracy McGrady and Gilbert Arenas seems weirdly gleeful and overboard. (Especially from Arenas, who seems to have taken a particular interest in crapping on ol' Roy like he's still a member of the Wizards organization, like "Pick one" didn't happen, and is doing so — as Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog notes — in a way that isn't even clever or interesting, as used to be the "Agent Zero" trademark.) I mean, it's not like Roy's coming down to where these guys work and knocking the two-seamers and, um, illegal fireworks out of their hands, you know?
On the other, though ... well, this is the bed you make when you're a 7-foot-2 All-Star who, in the midst of his team's late-season swoon, calls his teammates on the carpet for being "selfish," then sets about disappearing completely. The only way for Hibbert to shut up the trolls — even the ones who've made tens of millions in the NBA before him, and maybe especially them — is going to be to stand up and be counted before the Pacers find themselves out of the postseason. If he can't start making an impact on the game, he'll be reduced to trying to remain relevant outside it ... just like some other folks we know.
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