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Sports columns

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Pacers
vs. Washington
Eastern Conference
semifinals
Series: Washington leads 1-0
Game 1: Washington 102, Indiana 96
Today: at Indiana, 7 p.m.
Friday: at Washington, 8 p.m.
Sunday: at Washington, 8 p.m.
Tuesday: at Indiana, TBD *
May 15: at Washington, TBD *
May 18: at Indiana, TBD *
Associated Press
Pacers center Roy Hibbert was an All-Star at midseason. But since, his production has mysteriously disappeared.

Everyone wonders: Where is Hibbert?

– Roy Hibbert. Sigh.

What is there left to think, or say, or do?

Criticism?

Hypnotism?

Exorcism?

It is hard to come up with anything in recent memory like it; an All-Star in winter vanishes in the spring, many nights without a trace.

It is not often to see a guy accomplish so little in the box score, but get written about, talked about and tweeted about so much. Three months ago, could anyone have imagined that it would come to this?

But the Indiana Pacers need him, and that’s a fact of life. Never mind the public and media chatter of lineup exile. He is a decorated 7-foot-2 center, and the Pacers are playing a Washington team that clearly intends to take the physical fight to them.

“We know this is going to be a war,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.

You do not win a war by flying a white flag from your tallest tower. Hibbert has to be a factor. Or else.

“It’s not just Roy, it’s all of us,” Frank Vogel said Tuesday. “I’ve got to get him some looks to help get him going. Everybody else has to understand, he wasn’t 0 for 11 last night. He was 0 for 2.

“I’ve got to call his number sometimes, which I called it zero times.”

Still. You wonder if he’s sick. You wonder if he’s hurt. You wonder if he’s confused. You wonder if he sleeps, thinking about it all. You wonder if a whisk broom is needed to sweep up what’s left of his confidence.

You wonder if he is staying off social media. He should, in the way an antelope should avoid a lion pride. Paul George has warned him about that. Nothing good comes from it.

That’s what everyone does with Hibbert now. They wonder. Seven-footers do not just disappear.

A section at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is called Area 55, a nod to his uniform number. At the moment, Area 55 has more mysteries than Area 51. That’s the one supposedly with the UFOs.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe the real Roy Hibbert has been abducted by aliens.

There is an obvious need for more effort, more grit, more muscle.

And more Hibbert. Sigh.

“We’re at the point where we really need Roy,” George said. “And we need him now.”

But who can find him?

The FBI?

The NSA?

The Ghostbusters?

Reports have West getting in his face. That ought to be enough to motivate anyone.

“I have faith that he’s going to find himself,” George said.

But how?

“I got to be a different Roy Hibbert than I have been,” he said. “I’m just going to look within myself and go out there and figure it out.”

Figure what out? That is the 7-2 puzzle. Hibbert is neither a rookie, nor a playoff novice. If he was going to melt in the heat from the bright lights, you’d think that would have happened last year. Instead, he tormented Miami with 22 points and 10 rebounds per game.

He was the man in the middle, the power in the paint. Now he’s the one nobody can recognize and everyone has questions about.

He’s Roy Hibbert.

Mike Lopresti is a freelance columnist. His columns appear periodically. * – if necessary

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