- Associated Press - Sunday, June 2, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert apologized Sunday morning for using a gay slur and cursing during his news conference after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.

About 12 hours after he made the comments, the team issued a statement from Hibbert in which he said he was sorry for his “insensitive remarks.”

“They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views,” he said in the statement. “I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television.”

After Saturday night’s win, Hibbert ended a response to a question about his defense on Miami’s LeBron James with “no homo,” a phrase that implies fear of appearing gay. He also called reporters an offensive term.

Before departing for Miami, where Game 7 will be played Monday night, Pacers coach Frank Vogel told reporters he had already spoken with Hibbert and described the 2012 All-Star center as “contrite.” Players were not available Sunday.

With the series tied at 3 and a trip to the NBA Finals at stake Monday, distractions are the last thing this young Pacers squad needs as it tries to prevent the Heat from making what many expected to be a stroll into their third straight NBA Finals. The Pacers have appeared in the finals only once, in 2000, when they lost in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers.

So Vogel did what he could to calm down the brewing controversy while still backing the big man who has given Indiana this chance by routinely beating up the defending NBA champions inside.

“It’s simple. I support him. I know he’s not that person and that it was a mistake,” Vogel said. “He knows he’s wrong. I didn’t have to tell him that and we all love and support him.”

Hibbert could be disciplined by the NBA, though he said Saturday night that he didn’t care if he got fined.

In his statement Sunday, he said, “I sincerely have deep regret over my choice of words last night.”

Hibbert had drawn a key charge on James in Indiana’s 91-77 victory that evened the series and lamented not providing enough help defensively to teammate Paul George on James in Game 3.

Hibbert was later asked why he finished so low in voting for Defensive Player of the Year, telling reporters that it was “because y’all (expletives) don’t watch us play throughout the year, to tell you the truth.”

The 7-foot-2 Hibbert’s star turn has been a major reason Indiana has pushed the defending champion Heat to a Game 7. He has averaged 22.8 points and 10.8 rebounds in the series, up from 11.9 points and 8.3 rebounds in the regular season.

But now, suddenly, the Pacers‘ big man who has been the talk of the series has become the center of attention for a different reason.

“Obviously, he made a great mistake. He feels horribly about it,” Vogel said. “I told him, basically, that we’ve got to move on from it.”

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