Posted Jun 25 2011 11:59AM
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- George Hill grew up wanting to play for his hometown Indiana Pacers. He was a high school and college star in Indianapolis, and just last month, decorated his torso with a giant tattoo in the shape of Indiana.
Yet Hill didn't sound as if being traded home was exactly a dream come true.
"It hurts when you feel like you have a lot of family, but at the same time I know the Spurs love me as a person," Hill said Friday. "They're a great organization. It's just a better business decision for them and for myself."
Although beloved by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich - who saw Hill as a future star of the franchise - San Antonio dealt its backup point guard to the Pacers for their first-round pick in Thursday's NBA draft, forward Kawhi Leonard of San Diego State.
The trade gives the Spurs much-needed size and the Pacers the scoring guard they hoped to land in the draft.
Now instead of a rookie, the Pacers add a young veteran who spent his first three NBA seasons playing behind Tony Parker and established himself as one of San Antonio's best perimeter defenders.
Moving to Indiana figures to promote Hill into a potential starter on a team that includes Darren Collison and Paul George in the backcourt.
One of Popovich's recurring complaints about Hill was he too frequently had to remind him to stop being so deferential while playing with three All-Stars with multiple championships - Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
Hill won't have that problem in Indiana. At just 25, Hill is practically a proven veteran on one of the NBA's youngest teams. Danny Granger, at 28, was the oldest of Indiana's starters by the end of last season.
"You have to realize Indiana already has their young core," Hill said. "I'm already coming in with a great point guard in Collision, a great shooting guard in Danny Granger and a big in Roy Hibbert. You already have so many people there that have already made a name for (themselves).
"Me fitting in, I don't think it's going to be tough."
The Pacers, coming off their first playoff trip in five seasons, further showed their commitment to their young core Friday by picking up the 2012-13 team options on Collison, George and Tyler Hansbrough.
Pacers general manager Larry Bird said the team talked with the Spurs about Hill the past few years.
Hill averaged 11.6 points last season and was often on the floor in the final minutes of close games despite coming off the bench. Popovich felt Hill was among the NBA's most improved players in his second year, though Hill's progress seemed to stall at times last season.
Drafted 26th overall out of IUPUI in 2008, Hill became another late gem the Spurs mined from deep in the draft. But after a 61-win season ended in the first round against the youthful Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs needed bigger players more than a third guard.
In addition to the 6-foot-7 Leonard, the Spurs also received two Slovenian big men in the deal with Indiana: Davis Bertrans, the 42nd pick, and Erazem Lorbek, a second-round pick from 2005.
Hill said it was tough getting the call Thursday night from Popovich, who used to call Hill his favorite player.
"I kind of look at Pop as a father figure. I'm sure everyone knows that and I'm sure he probably looks at me as a son," Hill said. "It was tough to really talk to him, with him getting rid of me and me leaving. But I talked to him today also and it was very good. You see the emotions on both ends."
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