I'm sad that George is leaving. One of the best guys we've had for the past few years, not only basketball-wise but in terms of the San Antonio community and having a great relationship with Spurs fans.
Taking One Last Measurement of Cubits
It took me all of about 30 minutes before the emotional strain of the news on George Hill's trade washed over me like floodwater rushing to clog the streets. George has "only" spent three seasons with the Spurs organization and yet I cannot help but feel as if I'm in one of those sentimental movie portraits where a kid's about to leave on a jet plane, but still manages to share an emotional farewell moment with his parents. However cheesy as it sounds, the feeling might be justified though.
Despite the short stint we've had with Hill, he always had that "little engine that could" stereotype in him the moment his name was called by David Stern, signaling one of the most confounding draft picks of the Duncan-Popovich-Buford era. Without even looking at the running thread back then, I remember people going nuts about the entire thing, and I mean that in a not-so-very-good way.
As much as the Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker brilliant scoop ups were more a combination of deft scouting, incredible foresight and a little bit of luck a few years back, the increasing sophistication of scouting methods these days almost eliminate the advantages the Spurs used to have. That's why when you pick a player who was in nobody's mock draft in the first round (too undersized, played in a weak conference), much less memorize or know the school where he came from, it's almost a certainty that your team's front office is reaching for the stars. In average sports fan speak, you can interpret that as going for the impossible and setting yourself up for disappointment, but if you're a Spurs fan, it's called outsmarting the competition, yet again.
And thus, the backdrop for Hill's magnificent rise from obscure draft pick to future face of the franchise was laid out. The beginnings were just too storybook to believe. The doubters were ready to throw the kid deep -- even threatening to fling him under the concrete where the bus was parked -- and it didn't help that he had the most horrible of summer league debuts (20% field goal shooting, anyone?). He managed to quell the loud noises a bit by contributing immediately, even if in small, timely flashes of skillfulness, in a Spurs season plagued with injuries and quickly spiraling down to nowhere land. Then came Popovich and his "these playoffs are not for George" comment that threatened to have Spurs fans picket outside the AT&T Center. Apparently, in the eyes of people who actually call the shots, Hill can never do right.
Fortunately for him, he went through the entire gamut of a regular season slowly earning the respect of fans with each passing game. Hey, that dude CAN shoot from distance. Wow, he can even create his own shot! That was a pretty finish around the rim. No way he jumped that high and dunked the ball so hard! You know what, it's time to buy a George Hill jersey! These and other compliments trickled in and eventually snowballed not only into a massive, shaking-my-head disappointment in Pop's stubbornness, but also equally important, a newfound fondness for the kid who never complained and never sought to demand a bigger role despite the situation calling for it at that time.
As much as we fans would want to take credit for Pop eventually giving in and playing Hill in the playoffs, it was also as much as George's doing -- sure, those playoffs may not have been for him, but then again, getting drafted into the NBA and being able to contribute was also supposedly not for him. Whether things were suited for him or not, it didn't matter. Hill always found a way to make himself a needed piece of the puzzle.
After having a career sophomore year (ranking high in Most Improved Player voting) and an average but still good junior year where he was a vital piece of a 61-win squad, George continued to follow the script on a success story that Spurs lifers would have been able to recount again and again. Well, until the first round exit happened, and then the 2011 draft. It wasn't something out of left field as we've been fed with trade rumors the days leading up to the draft, but still. I guess you can never really prepare for these things, right?
And so goes Spurs fans' love affair with George Hill. Some casual, detached observers may never understand this, but there is legitimate reason to be extremely saddened by the development. For all the great and not-so-great things he's brought to the San Antonio Spurs community, I will always think he represented one thing best and that is family.
The Spurs organization, as business-minded and win-driven as they are, have often cultivated such a close-knit culture, and this was none more evident than in seeing how Hill interacts with teammates and fans. The willing and sincere participation in community programs. Giving away free tickets. Retweeting even the simplest and most mundane RT requests of fans on Twitter (ex. Can I get an RT? It will REALLY make my day). Playfully trying to convince the great Tim Duncan to enter social networking. Connecting effortlessly with a hard-to-please coach. The antics with running buddy DeJuan Blair. Standing up for the team in the face of a sneering, frustrated Kobe Bryant. Always ready to put the blame on himself for losses rather than on teammates. Even down to the simplest act of greeting the day with optimism (in Cubits speak, "Let's get it!").
As young as he is, George Hill, in Beatles-speak, was always that someone in the team who "wanna hold your hand". That's who he is for this fan, and even when he's an entire conference apart, he, as RC Buford put it, will always be a Spur.
See you on the other side of the fence, Mr. Ooeey Pooey.
Please continue to pool our collective appreciation and love for Cubits, and we'll tweet this thread to him.
Feel free to post any favorite photos, memories, soundbites or other well-wishes for our man from IUPUI.
In the meantime, here's his initial message for Spurs fans:
@George_Hill3 Very emotional moment right now!!! But just want to Thank Everyone for all the Support. SA has been great to me and will never forget it!!
NOTE: This is NOT the place to analyze the trade involving George Hill, we'll have a separate thread for that. Thanks.