Hill finds groove, shows what he can do

Jan. 2, 2012


George Hill totaled 31 points against Detroit and Cleveland. (NBAE/Getty Images)
After the first two games of the season, Frank Vogel was asked if he had any concerns about George Hill's slow start.

At the time, Hill was 2-of-12 from the field and had missed all six of his 3-point attempts.

"We play smash-mouth basketball where we're playing through the post. That's our focal point," Vogel said. "And he's also playing two positions in a new system which slows down the learning curve and the comfort level a little bit. It's just a matter of time."

Turns out, not much time at all.

Hill produced two strong games off the bench, totaling 31 points and 10 rebounds while making 13-of-26 shots in a victory over Cleveland and a loss at Detroit.

This was the Hill the Pacers envisioned when they traded No. 15 pick Kawhi Leonard to San Antonio to acquired the former Broad Ripple and IUPUI star: pushing the tempo and attacking the basket offensively, using his long arms and quick feet to be disruptive defensively.

They also believe this young veteran will play a key leadership role, bringing the lessons of his time in the elite environment of San Antonio.

"Everything I've heard about him as a guy and as a leader -- he's grabbing guys left and right -- and the player-coach relationship is really neat," Vogel said. "He's got a great way about him and he's a really good player."

Though he has returned home, this is very much a new basketball environment for Hill. No longer one of the youngest guys on the team, he suddenly is considered a veteran. On a Spurs roster that featured Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, Hill didn't need to lead -- but he did have plenty of examples from which to learn.

But the Pacers offer Hill the comfort of a locker room full of contemporaries.

"I'm in a team now that everyone's almost the same age as me so we talk about the same things rather than me asking Tim, 'What does that mean?' " Hill said. " … I'm not a veteran. I'm 25 years old. They keep calling me a vet and I'm like, 'I'm your age.' But at the same time I kind of joke with them because we have the same things in common and we like doing the same things. The more we can goof with each other, have fun with each other the closer we're going to be on the court and that's going to carry over."

Where the Spurs were an established team trying to maintain their place among the league's elite, the Pacers are an unproven but eager young team on the rise.

"They have a chip on their shoulder," he said. "With the success they had last year they're not settling. They want to come back this year and do better than we did last year. We've got some new faces but at the same time we've got new roles and new coaches and we have great coaches and great leaders on the floor."

Along with David West, Hill brings the seasoning the Pacers hope will round out the recipe for success.

Follow @conrad_brunner on Twitter