Roy Hibbert is expected to return to the Indiana Pacers next season, not join the Trail Blazers, as he was widely expected to do after Portland offered him the maximum salary earlier in his free agency.
The skilled, young center, who became a restricted free agent at the end of the 2011-2012 season, was offered $58 million for four years by Portland, according to ESPN The Magazine.
But it appears that the Indiana Pacers -- who just finished one of their best seasons in years with a 42-24 record that carried them to the second round of the 2012 NBA Playoffs -- want to keep the big man.
In order to ensure that Hibbert stays in the Hoosier State, the Indianapolis Star reports that Indiana plans to match the Portland Trail Blazers' contract offer, and because he is restricted, Hibbert is obligated to stick with the team he has helped lead back to prominence.
Last year, Roy Hibbert notched career high tallies of 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. And their season only came to an end in Game Six of a hard-fought playoffs series against the mighty Miami Heat, who went on to win the NBA Championship under the leadership of the storied Big Three of Lebron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Reaction to the news has been mostly positive among Pacers fans, including the Indianapolis Star's own Bob Kravitz, who wrote Monday night that he thinks retaining Roy Hibbert was a no-brainer:
Hibbert is one of the top seven centers in the league, and a very rare commodity given his size, his skill set, his personality and his work ethic. For a team that has a hard time putting butts in the Bankers Life Fieldhouse seats, this was the smart move to make, Kravitz wrote. With Hibbert, they will win 50 games or more next season. With somebody like, say, Chris Kaman, they would have struggled to win 50. And they wouldn't have had the future with the 30-year-old, injury-plagued Kaman that they do with the 26-year-old Hibbert.
How crazy would it have been for the Pacers to finally grab the attention of this town, then let one of their central players walk in free agency? It would have been publicity suicide.