|Hibbert was a force early in the second round of the playoffs vs. LeBron and the Heat. (Getty Images)|
Indiana Pacers' incoming president Donnie Walsh had said he didn't want to disrupt the nucleus of a team that went 42-24 and reached the second round of the playoffs last season. On Friday, he announced that the Pacers have re-signed free agents Roy Hibbert and George Hill.
"Before the free agent period started, I met with the press and basically said the biggest priority we have is to keep our own guys, and we are here today to announce that George and Roy signed contracts to be with the Pacers for quite a while," Walsh said to a cheering crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Hibbert, a fourth-year pro, is coming off an All-Star season, averaging 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks per game and giving the Pacers a dominant presence at center. He says he's happy to be back because the Pacers have "unfinished business" after losing to eventual champion Miami in the playoffs.
"I was pretty surprised I made the All-Star team," he said. "If it happens again, that's great, but I'm more focused on winning, rebounding, blocking shots and being a defensive presence."
Hill was drafted by San Antonio with the 24th overall pick in 2008 and spent his first three seasons with the Spurs. The guard joined Indiana in June 2011, and has career averages of 9.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.
The Pacers also said they have signed free agent guard D.J. Augustin, who averaged 10.9 points and 4.4 assists during four years in Charlotte.
Re-signing Hibbert and Hill gives the Pacers the stability they sought. Adding Green, Johnson and Augustin gives the Pacers more players who can attack the basket and score off the bench. Plumlee and Mahinmi give the Pacers athletic posts who can step in if Hibbert gets into foul trouble.
Hibbert has grown tremendously as a player since the Pacers picked him up on draft night in 2008. He was in and out of the starting lineup under coach Jim O'Brien, but once Frank Vogel replaced O'Brien, he flourished.
"People told me maybe I could be a good backup or maybe have a long career, but this organization believed in me, and it's the only place I want to be right now," he said.
Hibbert's importance to the Pacers goes well beyond the court. He's active in the community and has become arguably the most popular Pacers player. His Area 55 section of Bankers Life Fieldhouse is the rowdiest in the building.
The Pacers matched an offer by the Portland TrailBlazers to keep Hibbert.
"Portland was on my list of teams that, if Indiana didn't match, it would have been a pretty good opportunity to go out there and play," Hibbert said. "It was pretty serious."
Hill joined the Pacers after a draft-day deal in 2011 that sent Indiana draft pick Kawhi Leonard to San Antonio, and he averaged 9.6 points and 2.9 assists per game last season. The Indianapolis native began the season as a productive player off the bench, then became the starter after Darren Collison was hurt and kept the job through the Pacers' playoff run.
"I'm just happy to be back, to be a part of this Pacer team," he said. "I can't wait to get back with my teammates and get things rolling."
Hill has high hopes for the Pacers going forward. Last year's team had significant additions in Hill and free agent forward David West, and it came together quickly with a training camp that was shortened because of the lockout.
"This team can be scary good," he said. "We've done good with the progress we've made here, but it wasn't our goal. To do what we did in a short amount of time - I think we shocked everyone. To get it back and still have most everyone coming back and adding some great pieces, I think we can do a lot more, especially with a lot more time underneath our belts."