Hill makes debut against Bulls
Indianapolis (Dec. 15, 2011) -- Despite his relatively brief tenure as a member of the Pacers, George Hill has picked up on this percolating thing with Chicago.
Though his debut in the uniform of his hometown team comes Friday night in Conseco Fieldhouse (7pm, FOX Sports Indiana, 93 WIBC) is unofficial, being a preseason game, the opponent makes it something of an event for Hill and his new teammates.
"It's a rivalry," Hill said. "They're next door and they've had success. It's been a rivalry for a long time, when Reggie (Miller) hit that big shot (to win Game 4 of the 1998 conference finals). But a rivalry is something that goes back and forth with wins and losses and we've been getting the short end of the stick for a couple of years. So we're going to try to come in and change that.
"We're not looking to be the best right now. We're looking to make strides. Each day we're getting better and just take the game step by step."
Like everything else about this season, the exhibition schedule has been compressed. Instead of the usual seven or eight games against a variety of opponents spread over two to three weeks, the Pacers and Bulls will play a home-and-home series in a four-day span, concluding Tuesday in Chicago.
Six days later, the regular season begins.
"Everyone speaks of the shortened training camp. The actual camp itself, the week where we're working before the first preseason game, that timeframe is still the same," Coach Frank Vogel said. "Where we're lacking is the three weeks of preseason games that you get to grow and add to your offensive package and cover defensive sets. That's where we're lacking. It's all about efficiency. We've got to roll with it and try to be as productive as possible every time we get together."
In a normal year, the first three or four preseason games could be devoted to evaluating personnel, both in terms of who has a chance to make the team but who is earning a larger role. The last three or four are usually focused on getting the team as sharp as possible for the regular season.
Not so this year. The priorities have changed out of necessity.
"It's a challenging thing because I want to get some of the younger guys some minutes like you always do in the preseason but at the same time we've got to fine-tune our system with our core guys so they're going to see a lot of minutes getting ready for opening night," Vogel said. "David West won't be there but 80 percent of the rotation will be what it looks like on opening night. There's not going to be a whole lot of time to play the guys that aren't going to be in the rotation opening night but we'll try to get their feet wet a little bit."
West, who signed Tuesday and joined practice Wednesday, will be brought along cautiously to allow his conditioning to catch up to the rest of the team. The team's other prominent free agent acquisition, forward Jeff Pendergraph, also will sit out (knee).
But Hill, the Broad Ripple High and IUPUI standout brought home through a draft-night trade with San Antonio, will take the floor for the first time as a member of the Pacers against the team that eliminated them in an impressively hard-fought first-round playoff series last May.
"Unfortunately, it's somebody that we really dislike right now because they put us out in the first round but it should be fun," Hill said. "I'm expecting the crowd to come out and show a lot of support for this new Pacer team and I'm just going to go out there and try to have a good time."
This is the Bulls' only visit to Indianapolis until the final game of the regular season, which also should give the atmosphere something a little extra.
"It's always exciting playing against the Bulls whether it's preseason, postseason, regular season," Vogel said. "We're hoping to establish a little bit of a rivalry there. I think you've got to be a threat to beat them and I think we showed we're a threat last year. But they're currently the best team in the NBA record-wise based on last year so we're going to come after them."