May, 9, 2014
By Michael Rubino
Special to ESPN.com
Special to ESPN.com
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesRoy Hibbert righted the ship in Game 2, but is time still running out on the Pacers' postseason hopes?Basically, there are three kinds of fishing trips.
There’s the one where you lie about going fishing and instead drink beer. (This is the most common.) Then you have your "Andy Griffith Show"-style outing, where, pole slung over your shoulder, all problems melt away against an upbeat ditty that comes from a whistling, off-screen chorus. And finally, you have the one where things go horribly wrong -- like in "Jaws" or "The Godfather: Part II."
Although it’s unclear which type of outing Paul George was angling for when he invited teammates George Hill and Roy Hibbert to his Geist Reservoir pad Tuesday -- a day after the Indiana Pacers looked flat in a 102-96 Game 1 loss to the Washington Wizards -- this much is unmistakable: They caught a fish in the waters off the posh Indianapolis suburb, and no one got tossed overboard like Fredo.
We know this because George posted a picture to his Instagram account. In the photo, Hibbert, center, wraps one arm around Hill and rests the other on George’s shoulder. There’s also a fish, which looks quite small in Hibbert’s mitt. The image was accompanied by a caption that read, “These rumors have got to stop! Its [sic] getting old now and all you that believe them are ignorant! #Brothers”
The rumors and innuendo have plagued the Pacers in the postseason and throughout most of the regular season’s second half. At times, the tattle (cliques, insecurities and women are the most common themes) overshadowed their accomplishments and has only grown in Indiana’s eventful playoff run. In advance of Game 2, George finally addressed its existence: “I'm just getting tired of the media and these stories,” he said. “I’m just putting everything to bed and rest.”
The Pacers, though, have put themselves in this position -- being defensive instead of playing defense, which is the reason the team is the Eastern Conference’s top seed, and, for parts of the season, looked like it belonged among the NBA’s elite.
There’s never been a clear explanation or alibi for Indiana's woes, so this is what it’s come to for those on the outside looking in: cognitive theory from the living room couch and pub-stool psychoanalysis; trading in rumors and rumoring in trades; divining and mining Instagram pics for The Answer (not Allen Iverson).
Fans have been fishing, too.
Regardless, whatever happened (or didn’t) between Hibbert and his teammates, it worked.
In Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, the enigmatic big man, who went scoreless in Game 1, had a season-high 28 points in an 86-82 win to even the series at 1-1. There were also nine rebounds, two blocks and no turnovers. He even smiled again.
All this coming after said fishing junket, social-media shots from all corners and public pleas from teammates begging for Hibbert to make his presence known. “I got to come out and be aggressive,” he said after the Game 1 loss. “I got to be a different Roy Hibbert than I have been.”
So now all’s well again -- until it isn’t. That’s what the Go Fish! approach has wrought: uncertainty.
No one knows what Game 3 will bring. Or which Pacers team will show. Or which players. Or which versions of which players. The team already has a “Good Lance” Stephenson and a “Bad Lance,” but based on Hibbert’s comments, there are now apparently multiple Roys. And that type of herky-jerky back-and-forth -- the kind that throws guys from boats -- is the reason the Pacers don’t inspire confidence right now.
No one would ever confuse 90210 with the 46204 ZIP code, but we’ve had what’s felt like our fair share of high school drama here. And while the Pacers have been mired in theatrics, the Heat continue to prowl. Miami swept Charlotte, then plowed through Brooklyn in Games 1 and 2. LeBron & Co. look like true predators.
If the Pacers hope to fend off the upstart Wizards and topple the Heat, then Hibbert, Hill and George are going to need a bigger boat.
Michael Rubino is a senior editor at Indianapolis Monthly.