Indiana George and the Temple of Doom
AT&T CENTER — Who would have thought that George Hill, mild mannered backup point guard for the San Antonio Spurs, was merely a cover for his more potent alter ego, super sub Indiana George?
In the midst of a six game losing streak, extended in part due to a careless turnover committed by Hill in Houston, Indiana George came out yesterday guns blazing. The reserveâ€”and normally reservedâ€”guard hit his first five shots en route to 29 points and four assists in the Spurs 114-97 victory.
For most of the season, Hill has managed to keep near the level of play that made him one of the most improved players in the NBA a season ago. Now Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is asking for more. Heâ€™s asking him to go back to his roots, to return to Indiana.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to get him to the point where every time he steps on the floor he knows that heâ€™s a heck of a player, that we want him to be aggressive and that he has the green light to do that and be a scorer,â€ Popovich said. â€œItâ€™s just a process. Heâ€™s a young guy and a respectful guy who defers and wants everybody to be happy.
â€œIn an ironic sort of way, weâ€™re trying to get him to be more selfish.â€
The reeling-in of Hillâ€™s scoring instincts was never by design, according to Popovich. Tagged with the label backup point guard, Pop once said, Hill pigeonholed himself to what he thought a point guard should be.
One would need to look no further than Hillâ€™s performances sans a Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker to see the difference in his aggressiveness in their presence. With Ginobili plugged into the starting lineup, the Spurs need Hill to maintain that level of play as the leader off the bench or alongside both of them.
â€œHe needs be to be the Indiana George, the Indiana George that played in high school and college,â€ Hill said. â€œIn high school and college Iâ€™d have 25-point halves, so I should try to relive the dream I guess.â€
Hill wasted little time, scoring back-to-back buckets as soon as he entered the game on two perfectly executed sets of cuts and passes from Tim Duncan. His ability to exploit open driving and passing lanes and finish have never been in doubt.
What followed is something new to Hillâ€™s NBA repertoire. With under two minutes remaining in the first quarter Hill created enough space off his dribble twice for a set of back-to-back 3-pointers and then again for a shot from about eight feet out.
Hill capped off the quarter with another new trick he learned, the rip move currently favored by Kevin Durant and made famous by Tim Duncan. With a defenders hand out, Hill swung his arms through the defender, creating contact and earning three free throws.
Thatâ€™s 11 points in two minutes, a bench happily restored, and all in a dayâ€™s work for Indiana George.