of the Indianapolis Star writes
that the Indiana Pacers need to match on restricted free agent center Roy Hibbert, who agreed to a 4-year, $58 million offer sheet with the Portland Trail Blazers last week.
Hibbert's re-signing is especially important for a team that cannot draw the big-time stars from other teams. Haven't heard Magic center Dwight Howard's name connected with Indiana, and you won't. Point guard Steve Nash is already with the Los Angeles Lakers. Some of the other lesser lights -- shooting guards Brandon Roy, Jamal Crawford -- have agreed to deals elsewhere.
It's hard to imagine that the new brain trust will fail to match Hibbert's offer and do something so universally unpopular right out of the gate. (I'm still putting the Miles Plumlee draft in former team President Larry Bird's lap.) Maybe new President Donnie Walsh got burned too many times overpaying players in his final years of his first run with the Pacers. Who knows? We're guessing here. When I spoke to Walsh recently, he was painfully non-committal on Hibbert, unlike the Hornets, who have gone on record saying they're going to match any offer for shooting guard Eric Gordon.
Portland's offer sheet cannot be officially extended until July 11. At that point, the Pacers have three days to decide whether or not to match.
Pacers president Donnie Walsh said this week
that retaining Hibbert was the team's "first priority."
While Pacers coach Frank Vogel said before free agency opened
that Hibbert "wasn't going anywhere" there are some who don't view
the Pacers matching as a slam dunk.
It was reported earlier this week
that the Pacers would begin to investigate other potential options at center in case they didn't match on Hibbert.
Blazers GM Neil Olshey and president Larry Miller made Hibbert their first stop
of the 2012 Free Agency period. Hibbert was reportedly "blown away
" by Olshey and company.
Hibbert, 25, just completed his fourth season with the Indiana Pacers, posting career-high averages of 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game. He played in 65 of Indiana's 66 games last season.
Hibbert, listed at 7-foot-2 and 278 pounds, is generally regarded as a top-5 free agent in this year's class and the best available center.
-- Ben Golliver | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter