Changing of the guard: Hill to remain in lineup
April 20, 2012 -- The decision was made and, from the concerned look on Frank Vogel's face, it was anything but easy.
George Hill will remain the starting point guard when Collison returns from a groin injury, which could happen as soon as the Pacers' game with Philadelphia on Saturday, Vogel said after practice Friday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
"Obviously we were playing very good basketball when D.C. was the starter," Vogel said. "I think we were 10 games over .500 and we were probably playing to the level of a 7 1/2 to an 8 out of 10. Good basketball, but since George has been the starter we've been playing at a level 9.
"I think when the team's rolling the way we're rolling right now, I don't think you mess with that chemistry. You keep it, you stay the course, and that's the plan right now."
The Pacers have gone 7-0 with Hill in the starting lineup. The offense has averaged 106.4 points, as he has produced 15.4 points, 5.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds while committing just six turnovers.
The decision was based at least as much on team performance as Hill's individual. In three of the last four games, all five starters scored in double figures. In the other game, four of the five scored in double figures and Paul George had nine.
Hill said he was "a little surprised" when Vogel informed him of the decision.
"I just looked at it as me coming in, doign what I'm asked to do, trying to fill my job to the best of my ability," Hill said. "If that's me coming in and everybody's playing well then so be it. But at the same time it's nothing I'm really doing. We have great players that are starting to play well. I guess we just keep looking and see what it holds for us."
Vogel hopes the move not only keeps the first unit rolling but ignites the second unit, which has been struggling of late. Collison is a proven scorer at the point guard spot and teamed with Leandro Barbosa, Dahntay Jones, Tyler Hansbrough and Lou Amundson, the second unit could benefit from his speed in the open court.
"Where we've struggled is with the second unit scoring and the hope is D.C. can come in and infuse some life into that unit and get this entire team playing at a level 10, take it even a step higher from where we're at right now," Vogel said. "That's what I've asked D.C. to do, to focus on energizing that second unit.
"Change in your roles is something every pro athlete has to deal with at some point in their careers. It's not an easy thing to do. It's not going to be easy for D.C. but he's going to embrace the challenge and really elevate that second unit."
Collison started the first 93 games of Vogel's coaching tenure, posting a 54-39 record, including 34-22 this season while averaging 10.6 points and 4.9 assists. He injured his groin during a fall against Oklahoma City on April 6, returned to play a full game against Boston the next night but was ineffective.
He missed four games, then came off the bench to play 19 minutes against Minnesota on Monday but reported tightness in the groin and sat the last two. He practiced Friday and could return Saturday.
"I think we're in a good position right now as far as the team and I'm a team player," Collison said. "I can adapt to any situation and make a positive out of it. ... It's what is good for the team right now. They've been rolling since I got hurt and I'm looking forward to continuing that success.
"I think this team is talented one through 10. the second unit is a very important part of this group. Even when I was in the starting lineup the second unit was very important. I think we're going to have a lot of success going down the road but I think the biggest thing is we've got to focus on Philly."
This is not an indictment of Collison, but rather a coach opting not to mess with success.