The Indiana Pacers, if you will recall, took the home-court advantage of their second-round playoff series against the Miami Heat and led 2-1 after three games. There was so much talk about the youth and potential of the Pacers, and rightfully so.
At the heart of their emergence was 7-foot-1 center Roy Hibbert. So, when he was signed to a four-year, $58-million offer sheet by the Portland Trail Blazers, there was no chance Indiana would let its cog move on.
The Pacers made it official, re-signing Hibbert and signing guard George Hill, another important piece what they have built.
Donnie Walsh, returning as president after a stint with the New York Knicks, said he didn’t want to disrupt the nucleus of a team that went 42-24 and reached the second round of the playoffs last season. The Pacers eventually lost to Miami in six games, but it was there for all to see — they are a team on the rise.
”Before the free agent period started, I met with the press and basically said the biggest priority we have is to keep our own guys,” Walsh said to a cheering crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Hibbert, a fourth-year pro, is coming off an All-Star season, averaging 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game and giving the Pacers a dominant presence at center. He says he’s happy to be back because the Pacers have ”unfinished business” after losing to eventual champion Miami in the playoffs.
”I was pretty surprised I made the All-Star team,” he said. ”If it happens again, that’s great, but I’m more focused on winning, rebounding, blocking shots and being a defensive presence.”
Hill was drafted by San Antonio with the 24th overall pick in 2008 and spent his first three seasons with the Spurs. The guard joined Indiana in June 2011, and has career averages of 9.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
The Pacers also said they have signed free agent guard D.J. Augustin, who averaged 10.9 points and 4.4 assists during four years in Charlotte. And they added Ian Mahinmi and forward Gerald Green. This comes after the team added center Miles Plumlee and guard Orlando Johnson on draft night, making the Pacers more deep than last year’s surprising team.