Hibbert: Pacers know Bulls still formidible

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert said Friday he and his teammates respect the Chicago Bulls with or without Derrick Rose on the court.

“I think their other veteran players like (Carlos) Boozer, (Joakim) Noah, they’re going to try to take over, you know, and lead the team, pick up the slack a lot more,” Hibbert said before Friday’s game against the Bulls at the University of Notre Dame. “We just have to make sure we do a good job of containing those guys.”

The Bulls have finished ahead of the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Central Division the past two seasons. In 2010-11, the Bulls went 3-1 against the Pacers in the regular season and finished 25 games ahead of them in the Central. In the 2011 playoffs, the Bulls took an intense seven-game series 4-1 in the conference quarterfinals. Last season, the Bulls went 2-1 against the Pacers and finished eight games ahead of them in the division.

The Bulls and Pacers are considered the Central favorites again this season. The Bulls are expected to be without Rose for much of the season as he recovers from tearing his ACL in the playoffs last season.

Even with Friday’s game being a preseason affair, Hibbert said the Pacers wanted to have a good showing against the Bulls.

“Obviously, we want to do well, extremely well,” said Hibbert, who averaged 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks last season. “It’s preseason, so we’ll figure things out. You want to play to win, but you have to look at the fact these games don’t count. But at the same time, we want to work on stuff and want to win. Ultimately, we know next week is when everything starts.”

Hibbert did dance around the question of whether the Pacers or the Bulls were the team to beat in the Central this season.

“We just want to go out there and play our best and whatever happens, happens,” Hibbert said.