Per Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star the big man was reborn in Indy's first practice since its day off:
Roy Hibbert: "It’s always nice when you come down to nice warm weather. I was sprinting the court. I was like a gazelle."— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 10, 2014
Wait, do gazelles "spring?" Maybe Hibbert could be better described as exuberantly bounding or joyously striding.
Either way, the descriptions coming from Indiana's practice ahead of an April 11 tilt with the Miami Heat are a whole lot more encouraging than they've been in a long time:
Today in Miami seemed to be one of the best #Pacers practices in weeks. Several players mentioned how lively and fresh guys seemed.— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 10, 2014
Since the All-Star break, the Pacers have completely fallen apart. Boasting the NBA's second-worst offensive rating during that span and watching helplessly as fatigue poked holes in their previously impenetrable defense, the Pacers were reeling.
Now, the fresh legs afforded by a full night off against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 9 has the starters looking brand new. And Hibbert even felt spry enough to pull off a few rare aerial feats:
And also this gem from Lance Stephenson: "We felt good. Everybody was dunking. Roy was dunking! Roy don't normally dunk in practice."— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 10, 2014
This is just one practice, and we can't reasonably assume a single day off will cure everything that ails the Pacers. The interpersonal rifts created by some loss-inspired sniping are still there, and we can't just overlook that broken offense.
But we also have to remember these Pacers are just a couple of months removed from being the NBA's best team. Before the All-Star break, nobody had a higher net rating than Indy's plus-8.6. Maybe a brief period of rest will clear the air and allow Indiana to reflect on the dominance of its not so distant past, which could be even more valuable than fresh legs in the long run.
If Hibbert is feeling better, the Pacers defense suddenly has its anchor back. And perhaps a few vintage defensive stands will inspire the offense to return to its break-even level.
Then again, maybe the Heat will run roughshod over Indy when the two teams meet on Friday. With the way this season—and the matchups between these Eastern Conference rivals—have gone, there's no telling how their final regular-season meeting will turn out.
Remember, though; LeBron James sports a prominent tattoo of a lion. We all know what lions do to gazelles.