Soon enough, Roy Hibbert will begin to find out just how that rigorous summer of diet, conditioning and training will become manifest on the court.
As the Pacers shift gears from training camp into the preseason with three games in four nights beginning Wednesday in Memphis, Hibbert's progress will be one of the most intriguing factors to gauge. He lost 20 pounds, reduced his body fat by four percent, went through a week of boot camp with Bill Walton and underwent Mixed Martial Arts training in preparation for the 2010-11 season, his third in the NBA.
"I have no questions about how highly he's going to succeed this year," said Coach Jim O'Brien. "He's just versatile in that he can score in the low post with both hands, he's as good a passing big man as there is and he can knock down 18-footers and he's in the best shape of his life. They're all ingredients.
"It doesn't mean he's going to have a crazy good week. He's got growth to do but he's got the mentality to be the player that you run your offense through both in the high post and the low post. He knows that's what the expectations are and I think he's up to the challenge."
The Grizzlies offer up the dual challenge of the bruising Marc Gasol and the developing Hasheem Thabeet. Then comes a home matchup with Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic on Friday night, followed by a trip to Houston, where Yao Ming awaits, Saturday night.
"It'll be good to play against some other guys," said Hibbert. "Obviously they have a real good frontcourt in Memphis and everybody knows about Orlando. It'll be nice. It's an experiment to see if the hard work pays off but if it doesn't, just try to be a good teammate."
The Pacers likely be without T.J. Ford (out up to two weeks with a strained right hamstring) and Tyler Hansbrough, who has not been cleared to play full-court five-on-five. Solomon Jones (strained left hamstring) is questionable for the Memphis game.
Because of the compressed game schedule, O'Brien plans to use the opportunity to take a look at a variety of lineup combinations.
"Preseason is always interesting because the coaches always try a lot of different lineups, a lot of different combinations, they do some things not necessarily the way it happens in a normal game," said Danny Granger. "It gives coaches the chance to experiment so it's a lot of fun."
Darren Collison (point guard), Danny Granger (small forward) and Roy Hibbert (center) are virtual locks as opening-night starters. Mike Dunleavy appears to have the edge at shooting guard, both because of his strong camp performances and the five-game suspension facing incumbent starter Brandon Rush when the season begins. Josh McRoberts has the inside track at power forward.
With Ford out, A.J. Price and Lance Stephenson inherit more opportunity as backup point guards. First-round pick Paul George has been impressive in camp and could cement a prominent place in the rotation with a strong preseason. Second-rounder Magnum Rolle also could get a long look in the preseason. Veterans Jeff Foster, James Posey and Dahntay Jones are known quantities but their roles are still evolving.
O'Brien said he will be looking for "little synergies between players."
"We think Josh and Roy really have a good feel for one another so we want to see that in game situations against NBA talent," he said. "We have two new point guards and we want to see their feel for what we're trying to do, the tempo we're trying to create, the movement we're trying to create.
"And for about a quarter, a quarter-and-a-half, we're going to play a rotation we think is a viable rotation if you had to start right now. There's a lot of different things you're trying to get accomplished."
The game also will mark the unofficial debut of the Pacers' three rookies – first-round pick George and second-rounders Rolle and Stephenson.
"It'll be fun to wear the jersey with the name on the back," said George. "You get the official feeling of what the NBA is. It's still the preseason but it's the next step."