Lakers’ Hibbert questionable for tonight’s Pacers game; Kobe expects to play
It’s not clear if Indiana Pacers fans will get to see one player who was a key part of their past, though one who tormented them many seasons ago will play.
Roy Hibbert is questionable but Kobe Bryant expects to play for the Los Angeles Lakers in Monday night’s visit to face Paul George and the Pacers.
It’s an interesting debate as to whether fans in the Hoosier state are more interested in watching Hibbert or Bryant play for Los Angeles (11-42) in this contest.
Hibbert spent his previous seven seasons with the Pacers (27-24), making the All-Star team twice and ranking 11th in club history with 5,909 points, fourth with 990 blocks and seventh with 3,623 rebounds. The center developed into one of the league’s top defensive players before he was traded in the offseason to the Lakers for a second-round pick.
He sprained his left ankle in Saturday’s 106-102 loss at San Antonio, so it’s not clear if he will be on the floor as a visitor for the first time at Indiana.
The retiring Bryant, who had been listed as questionable with a right shoulder issue, is set to play his final game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The five-time NBA champion won the first of those titles over the Pacers in 2000 in a six-game series that marked Indiana’s only trip to the NBA Finals.
Although Bryant is the NBA’s worst shooter among qualifying players at 35.4 percent, he’s been more effective over his last four games (40.7 percent, 28.3-point average). He scored 25 on Saturday as the lowly Lakers nearly ruined the Spurs’ perfect home record.
The 37-year-old guard said afterward that it isn’t easy getting his aging body ready to play.
"I was happy that I was able to get loose a little bit," he said. "I felt like the tin man for a while. I couldn’t find any oil anywhere to loosen up these joints."
Bryant will play in the All-Star Game opposite Pacers star George, who has totaled 61 points on 52.9 percent shooting in his last two games after averaging 14.0 on 27.3 percent in his previous two.
"I think as one of the leaders of this team, offensively, I’m looked upon to be the scorer," George said. "I think I was pressing in the past two games, it was just my rhythm. I feel like my rhythm, I’m not rushing, I’m playing my pace, and it’s been putting me at a better rhythm."
Indiana used a style it calls "smash-mouth" in Saturday’s 112-104 home victory over Detroit with big man Myles Turner starting alongside center Ian Mahinmi, who returned to the lineup after a four-game absence with a sore lower back.
"Coach (Frank Vogel) has been telling us we’re a smash-mouth basketball team," Turner said.
The Pacers held a 42-38 edge on the glass and should enjoy similar success against a Lakers team near the bottom of the league in rebound margin at minus-4.1.
Los Angeles missed a chance at its second three-game win streak Saturday. Julius Randle had 15 points and 17 boards.
Indiana has captured four of the last five meetings after winning 107-103 on Nov. 29 behind George’s 39 points. Bryant made 4 of 20 shots and scored 13.