Hibbert on playing with Kobe: 'It'll be a challenge. But I'm up for it'

Gary A. Vasquez / USA TODAY Sports

A common refrain you'll hear about new Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert, whether from his own lips or someone else's, is that nobody's harder on him than he is himself.

Then again, he's never played with Kobe Bryant.

Bryant is a notoriously demanding teammate who's freely admitted to (one might say boasted of) making peers cry, and who arguably helped send the Lakers' last high-profile big man scurrying out of town at the first opportunity. It stands to reason that Hibbert, who was traded to the Lakers from the Indiana Pacers last month, might have some reservations about opening himself up to that enhanced level of scrutiny.

But the two-time All-Star is, for the time being at least, looking forward to the challenge.

"Just being able to play with a great (and) being pushed by somebody that has done it and won five championships. I'm up for a challenge," Hibbert told ESPN's Baxter Holmes. "People tell me a lot of different things, how he'll respect me, and I feel like if I go about my business, I can get it done.

"So, it'll be a challenge. But I'm up for it. I'm not going to speculate on other people and how they interacted with him and their relationships, but I feel like if I put my best foot forward in practices and in games, I don't feel like there will be any tension. And I'm the type of person that will be like, 'Hey, if I did something, let's talk it out,' as opposed to just going back and forth every day."

Hibbert added that it will be important for him to adjust his expectations and his mentality, to remember not to dwell on mistakes.

"I feel like I haven't done the best in environments that aren't conducive to me doing well, and I have to do that," he said. "Because times are going to get tough, and I'm going to have to let things slide off my back. I'm not going to make every shot. I'm not going to get every block. I can't let one play affect me the next two or three times down the court. I have had that happen before."

Asked how the Lakers can help foster Hibbert's mental growth and rebuild his confidence, general manager Mitch Kupchak said the plan is to keep things simple and focus on defense, Hibbert's one true strength.

For the Lakers, who finished second-last in the NBA in defensive rating last season, that feels like a sound approach.

And, says Hall-of-Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who has worked with Hibbert in summers past: "What works best with Roy is having a clear idea of what is expected of him in specific situations. Once he's clear on that he can execute flawlessly."

Perhaps the best case in point is the so-called Principle of Verticality that Hibbert perfected and helped popularize in the NBA lexicon - the rule that a defender can absorb contact and not get whistled for a foul so long as he establishes position and jumps straight up.

"I kind of feel like, that was my thing," says Hibbert, having seen countless other big men try to emulate him. "I'm the Godfather of that."

Hibbert on playing with Kobe: 'It'll be a challenge. But I'm up for it'
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