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Struggling Pacer Roy Hibbert expects to live up to $58M deal, surpass Dwight Howard as top center

Marc J. Spears
Yahoo Sports

Indiana's Roy Hibbert isn't averaging double-digits in points but is being paid double digits in millions of dollars this season. Even so, the regressing former All-Star center is confident he will eventually be the NBA's best at his position.

"People said I wouldn't be in the NBA," said Hibbert, the highest-paid Pacer at $13.8 million this season. "People said I wouldn't be a starting center, this, that and the other. I just prove people wrong. I'm having a slump right now, but in the grand scheme of things I'm going to turn it around and hopefully be the best when it's all said and done."

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Roy Hibbert got a big extension this past summer with the Pacers. (AP)

Hibbert aims to top Dwight Howard as the widely accepted best center in the NBA. A fake Hibbert Instagram account took a shot at Howard recently and gained some traction on the Internet before it was debunked – "I'm the best center in the league #[expletive]Dwight" it read.

"That wasn't me, but I will be the best center in the league one day," Hibbert said.

The Pacers' big man has some work to do. Through 20 games, Hibbert is averaging 9.8 points and 8.4 rebounds a game. He's currently at career-lows in field-goal percentage (38) and free-throw percentage (62). It's a far cry from last season's start, when he averaged 13.8 points and 9.6 rebounds in his first 33 games, numbers good enough to earn his first All-Star appearance as an Eastern Conference reserve.

After leaving All-Star weekend in Orlando, Hibbert has gone backward offensively and earning a big new contract this past summer – $58 million over four years – hasn't helped improve his game.

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"The contract? I really haven't thought about it," Hibbert said. "My life really hasn't changed that much since the contract happened."

What has changed on the court for Hibbert is the way teams are guarding him. Every game, Pacers coach Frank Vogel calls an offensive play for Hibbert early in an attempt to get him going. Vogel said Hibbert is a target now because he was an All-Star last season. Also, the absence of Pacers forward Danny Granger (knee injury) allows defenses to double-team Hibbert easier in the post.

Hibbert says the inconsistent Pacers (10-10) are also "getting every team's best" after advancing to the Eastern semifinals last season for the first time since 2005.

"He's playing with physicality," Vogel said. "His shots are going in and out. We believe they are going to come."

To improve mentally, he continues to see a sports psychologist for help in his quest to being an elite NBA center. He has been seeing Indiana-based sports psychologist Chris Carr since 2008, his rookie season. Hibbert tries to see Carr weekly and sometimes after home games. He has learned meditating exercises that he uses pre-game to get ready.

[Related: David Stern wants to stamp out 'Hack-a-Shaq']

Hibbert also has been keeping a daily basketball journal since the start of the year to give him reminders of past game plans, and what has gone right and wrong. Citing Lakers forward Metta World Peace, Hibbert says using a psychologist should be embraced.

"Physically everything is there," Hibbert said. "I just got to get over some stuff. It's more mental with me than anything. I'm getting to the [floor] spots I want to get to, but the shots aren't dropping that usually drop. It's taking a little longer than I expected, but I still talk to him and it's been working."

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