Originally posted on recycl3r.com  |  Last updated 3/9/13

Right now, the Eastern Conference is basically looked at as a one-team conference. There’s the Miami HEAT, who are the defending NBA champions and winners of 16 in a row, and then there’s everyone else. Seven other teams from the East will join Miami in the playoffs and try to prevent them from representing the conference in the NBA Finals again, but nobody is expecting the HEAT to have much resistance as they look to win the East for the third straight season. Except in Indiana.

The Pacers are 38-23 overall and in a prime position to finish in the top three. They’ve been without Danny Granger, their star player, for most of the season, but the emergence of Paul George as an All-Star has kept the Pacers amongst the East’s elite. Granger came back for a short period of time, but is out once again with knee troubles. The hope is that he can be back within a week.

Because of how long he’s been out, the Pacers have really grown accustomed to playing without him. If they get anything from him in the playoffs, that’s a really additional boost, but they haven’t relied heavily on him all season long and aren’t going to all a sudden ask him to shoulder the burden come playoff time.

Someone who will have to shoulder a bigger load in the playoffs, though, is starting center Roy Hibbert. Hibbert received a big contract worth $58 million over four years this offseason and to start the year looked nothing like the max money player he was getting paid like. However, as the playoffs, where interior play and halfcourt execution on both ends of the court is vital, get set to start Hibbert appears to be reverting back to last year’s form. So far in March, he’s averaging 16 points on 54 percent shooting from the field while grabbing eight rebounds and blocking nearly four shots a contest.

“My wrist is all healed up now,” Hibbert said to 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis. “The training staff has done a good job of rehabbing my wrist, so I don’t even get treatment on that anymore. And then, my confidence in my offensive game has gone up. And myself, I’ve grabbed the big guys out there every practice and grabbing the big man coach and we do drills just to get some touch around the basket and get some reps up. I think that’s helped me out a lot, but first and foremost defense is what I always worry about.”

At the start of the year Hibbert wasn’t even averaging double digits, or shooting above 40 percent from the field. It was looking like Pacers could really end up regretting giving him that contract and that he may not have been worth what he was given, but those days are long gone now.

“It wasn’t a mental block from the contract because my life hasn’t changed that much,” Hibbert said. “I just go about my business in the same way and everything like that. It was the fact that shots weren’t going in because of a certain problem and then I lost confidence a little bit in my shot and the shots I wouldn’t normally make were going in. The contract thing, I hadn’t even thought about all year. It was mainly I was shooting at a higher percentage in my off hand than I was my strong hand

“To tell the truth, the shots I normally take weren’t going in. The touch was going. If I try to shoot it one way it’d be like six inches off a little bit. I mean, to normal people who are listening right now, they think it should be able to go right in. Everything about the low-post game is about touch and about rhythm and it was off. So Paul George, David West and Lance Stephenson stepped up and we were winning games with them scoring at a high level. I was primarily defending and blocking shots and rebounding, so I am not going to try to change things up and say I need more shots when things are working. But the shots I am getting now are working. I still don’t take a large amount of shots, but that’s just my game and I try to be as efficient as possible.”

After giving the HEAT one of their toughest series last season, the Pacers know that they have the ability to compete at a championship-caliber level. But first, they want to worry about finishing out the regular season as well as they can.

“I mean for us, obviously we want to win the division first,” Hibbert said. “Last game I was in the huddle and saying, ‘Hey we are playing for a banner. We are playing to put up a banner during the Chicago game before the shootaround.’ The coaches were asking us how many division titles we have won? When was the last time? Everybody was guessing and I’m saying to myself, ‘The banners are up right there. You could just count them out right there.’ But it’s important for us to win that first and go on and win on the road and have a high seed and get homecourt advantage in the playoffs. We want to go far into the playoffs.”

Joseph Getting His Chance: Earlier this year, San Antonio Spurs point guard Cory Joseph wasn’t sure if or when he would get his chance to play. All he knew was that he would be ready if the opportunity came as he was getting extended run in the D-League with the Spurs’ D-League affiliate, the Austin Toros.

When Tony Parker went down with an ankle injury against the Sacramento Kings, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich opted to hand the starting point guard reins over to him. The opportunity came suddenly, but Joseph has backed up his talk and played pretty solid basketball for the Spurs. In two games as a starter Joseph has been playing 21 minutes a contest, shooting 50 percent from the field while scoring six points a night and dishing out three assists. He’s been serviceable and doing what the team has asked, but don’t expect Joseph to become an intricate part of what the Spurs are doing this season. They still have Nando De Colo, Patty Mills and Gary Neal who are most likely to see the backup minutes at the point guard spot in the playoffs, and this is mainly about seeing what they have in Joseph while Parker is out.

“We’ll put in stuff for (Joseph) when we put in stuff for Mario Elie,” Popovich said to Jessee Blanchard of 48 Minutes of Hell. “He knows 80 percent of what we’re running.”

Parker is projected to be out four weeks with a grade 2 sprained ankle, giving Joseph his chance to prove his worth. While he may not be looked at as a part of the playoff rotation right now, he could certainly change that if he impresses enough during this upcoming stretch. But, if he does, he’ll have to do so within the confines of the offense because he’s not at a point yet where Popovich is going to start running things specifically for him.Thanks 4 my site

promo bonus 100% sbobet ibcbet dan casino online dalam rangka hut bavetline yang kedua

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Jim Mora calls UCLA's upcoming schedule 'a complete injustice'

Tommy Tuberville returned to Auburn, lined up at Tiger Walk

WATCH: Arizona State pushes pile 20 yards on TD run

Jim McElwain still won't name Will Grier Florida's starter

Steve Smith has microfractures in back, out for Week 5

Cowboys want Brandon Weeden to attempt longer passes


Nebraska captain tells crowd 'I'm sorry we suck'

Report: Dolphins could fire some coaches if team loses to Jets

Georgia fans get #FireRicht trending on Twitter

Mark Fox paints body, wears shoulder spikes in student section

WATCH: Nick Chubb ties Herschel Walker's record

WATCH: Ohio St. WR penalized for 'throat slash' celebration

WATCH: Dabo Swinney interview awkwardly cut off

Ohio St. LB Darron Lee has message for fans after close win

WATCH: Swedish league player unties opponent's skates

Max Scherzer throws second no-hitter of the season

Ezekiel Elliott jokes he owes his OL a steak dinner

Mike Riley explains questionable pass play on third down

Torey Lovullo would be 'honored' by managerial offers

WATCH: Ohio State stops Indiana on 4th down to win game

McIlroy: Spieth, Day have made me hungry again

Jacob Coker Hits Calvin Ridley For 50-Yard TD

Sideline reporter stunned by Bama's 'new technology'

There is reason for cautious optimism with the Raiders

Nick Saban’s has personal umbrella holder with him

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Rick Pitino and the shadows that never leave

Chad Johnson ... Steelers kicker?

Flacco deserves more from the Ravens

Time for Neymar's Barcelona

Seth Rollins, WWE depth, Divas and winning

Madison Keys and the future of women’s tennis

Most underrated games in NFL Week 4

What to watch in CFB Week 5

Starter strategies for final, tie-breaker and wild card games

Five outrageous predictions for NFL Week 4

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker