Hill on verge of return, soothing pain of his absence


Hill discusses his injury following the game on Jan. 31.
Feb. 20, 2012 - When George Hill limped off the court three weeks ago with a chip fracture in his left ankle, you knew it would hurt. Little did anyone know the depth of the impact.

Hill could be back in action Tuesday when the Pacers face the New Orleans Hornets at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. If not then, his return could come the following night in Charlotte. Whenever he does step back on the court, he will bring a lot back to the team -- well beyond the 9.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals reflected on the stat sheet.

"He's a guy that is sound. He's a sound basketball player," Coach Frank Vogel said. "He's a guy that's not getting beat on his post cuts. He's a guy that's in his help spots all the time. He's a guy that's very good on the ball. Just his solid fundamentals defensively in transition and the halfcourt, as well, have been a factor."

Consider this comparison of the team's record and statistics:

  • With Hill, the Pacers are 14-5 and the defense has allowed averages of 90.5 points and .416 shooting;
  • Without Hill, the Pacers are 5-7 and the defense has allowed averages of 94.8 points and .445 shooting.

This is not to demean A.J. Price or Lance Stephenson, the two players whose roles increased while Hill was out. Price, in particular, represented himself well. It took a couple of games to shake off the rust from the end of the bench, but Price has come around nicely, averaging 9.8 points, 2.6 assists and .485 shooting in the last five games.

Stephenson's play has been up and down but he has had moments that offer a teasing glimpse of the future.

Even so, when Hill returns, the rotations can be restored to their natural order.

"You believe in the guys you have and I believe strongly in A.J. Price and Lance Stephenson, the guys that have primarily been filling in for him," Vogel said. "But you go back and watch a game like the first time we played Charlotte and George was all over the tape and our tempo was tremendous, our defense was making plays left and right. We held them to 32 percent shooting and he was a big part of that.

"And he gives you 3-point shooting and strong decision-making on the offensive end. We certainly have missed him a bunch and look forward to his return."

He is both the best scorer and defender on the second unit, a player that backs up two positions and could start at either. Vogel, in fact, hasn't ruled out the possibility of a lineup change down the road, given Hill's ability and experience.

"Quite honestly, as good as D.C. (Darren Collison) and Paul (George) have been playing, George is going to be a guy that continues to push for those starting jobs," Vogel said. "He's that good a player and we're looking forward to him getting back."

After that five-game losing streak, the team appears back on the upswing. Regaining Hill is critical for a number of aforementioned reasons, not to mention a March schedule that brings 17 games in 29 days, including five sets of back-to-backs and one back-to-back-to-back.

If we didn't know before, we know now just how important Hill is to the Pacers.

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