Catching up with Roy Hibbert — on joining Charlotte, seeing former teammates elsewhere

Hibbert had six points and three rebounds in his first game back. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Hibbert had six points and three rebounds in his first game back. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Roy Hibbert returned to Indianapolis and for the first time in his career, played at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in a uniform other than the Blue & Gold.

You may remember last season, his only one with the Los Angeles Lakers after being dealt there in the summer, Hibbert observed the game in street clothes. Not all his, though. He had to borrow Myles Turner’s blazer.

Curiously, that was his only game missed during the 2015-16 season. He played in 81 of 82 games.

So Monday night was the first time Hibbert checked in, heard his name shouted over the public address system, and scored in the same hoops he threw up thousands of free throws and hooks at for his first seven seasons in the league (2008-15).

There wasn’t much of a reaction from the home crowd, which was one of the weakest of the season. They did initially boo him, however, when he touched the ball for several possessions.

Within his first few minutes on the floor, he scored on a hook shot followed by a 15-foot jumper. He had a determined look to him in his 17 minutes of court time. He finished with six points, three rebounds, and a block.

Afterwards, Paul George and C.J. Miles ran down to talk with Roy before heading back to the locker room.

Entering Monday’s game, Hibbert was averaging 5.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.

Sitting in his locker before morning shootaround, I caught up with Hibbert, the former leader of Area 55. He was more outgoing than his only visit last season, but still not the Roy of old. He’s long gone.

How was your birthday yesterday? (He turned 30.)

It was cool.

Did you have time to meet up with any of the guys?

No. It’s just a business trip.

What’s new in your world? Still have the same interests, video games, etc.?

I haven’t really done anything lately. It’s just been basketball.

How have you felt about your season and this new opportunity in Charlotte?

Everything has been going well. It’s a really good group of guys who want to win. It’s a good organization. Everybody is all about winning.

Is it weird for you, after being a starter for most of your life, to mostly come off the bench?

No. Not at all. I’m here to help the team in whatever way I can.

(Charlotte) Coach Clifford is also known for his defense, much like Frank (Vogel) was. Have you noticed many similarities?

We stress defense in the same ways: being able to contain the ball,  protect the rim, and limit offensive rebounding. He’s a defensive-minded coach and offensively, he’s gifted in terms of the way he wants us to move the ball.

[From last year: Roy Hibbert returns, to play first game in Indy as opponent]

When you look at the other looker room, Paul George is the only guy left from the conference finals teams. Does the amount of changeover surprise you?

It’s the NBA. People move, teams look different. Nah, not really.

What’d you think about David West signing with Golden State?

It’s a good opportunity for him. It’s a good team over there, obviously. He played for two good organizations, San Antonio – and he’s playing for a good one now.

And then George Hill going to Utah…

It’s a good situation for him. A good opportunity for him. I’m happy for him.

How strange will it be to look up and not see Area 55? That’s now Myles Turner’s section.

I’m happy for the organization and the fans, and appreciative of my time here. Good for them.

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