Roy Hibbert bedeviled the Orlando Magic in the 2011 playoffs. Without Dwight Howard, and despite strong performances from Glen Davis, the Magic simply had few answers for the Indiana Pacers’ 7-foot-2 center.
But the Magic should hope Hibbert plays extended minutes when the teams continue their preseasons tonight at Amway Center.
Hibbert will provide the toughest preseason test yet for newcomers Nik Vucevic and Gustavo Ayón, who are vying to start at center this season for the Magic.
“It’s a great challenge,” Jacque Vaughn said after the Magic completed their shootaround today.
“Indiana’s a great ballclub. They’ll be in the thick of things again this year, a good challenge for us to match or see how we are against their physicality.”
Hibbert is nowhere near as physical a center as Howard, but in this era’s thin group of centers, Hibbert is one of the better players at the position.
This preseason, Vucevic has impressed with his offensive skills around the basket, while Ayón has passed the ball well and shown some grit.
The questions I have about both players is how effective they’ll be rebounding the ball and how effective they’ll be defending against capable opponents.
Vucevic is averaging 7.3 rebounds per game in 18.0 minutes per game. Ayón is averaging 7.3 rebounds per game in 27.3 minutes per game.
“With him [Hibbert], you really have to box out, because if the ball bounces high, he’s getting that,” Vucevic said. “He also has a long reach. He has long arms. So it’s a difficult matchup for anybody, because you’ve really got box him out and keep him as far as you can from the paint.”
I asked Vucevic what he feels he’s shown his coaches so far this preseason.
“I think mostly that I can rebound, that I can be a presence inside and outside,” he said.
“Those are the same questions that people had about me coming into this year. I think that I’ve shown I can rebound. Inside, when I roll [off a pick-and-roll], I’ve got good hands and can catch the ball and finish and make plays for others. I’m just trying to do whatever they ask me to do, which is play hard mostly.”
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at email@example.com and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.