As the Pacers move on from George Hill, his love for Indy remains

George Hill is headed to Utah Friday, with his living accommodations already handled. The Pacers dealt the Indianapolis native to the Jazz two days before the NBA Draft in June in a deal that brings Pike High School product Jeff Teague to the Pacers.

“It’s very tough but you know it’s a business,” Hill said in his first local interview since being traded.

“The Pacers moved in a different direction and I can’t be mad at that. Like you said, I think it’s a great opportunity that I’m going to get to go to Utah with a great supporting cast, a great front office, and a great coaching staff. I’m going to miss my teammates like Monta, C.J. Miles, Stuckey, Paul, all of those guys, Joe Young, Miles … I’m definitely going to miss those guys but it’s a business and I have to move on.”

LISTEN: Podcast with George Hill

Hill with his son, Zayden, who's seven months old.

Hill with his son, Zayden, who’s seven months old.

Where did Hill choose to spend his final night in Indy before the heading to Utah to prepare for the upcoming NBA season? In two fitting environments.

Basketball is what you do, it’s not who you are.

Hill doesn’t want to be defined as a basketball player. He cares about being a model human being, impacting lives, and using his platform for good.

So there he was, at Prime 47 in Clay Terrace Thursday night for an evening with George Hill & friends — benefitting Habitat for Humanity of Hamilton County. He’s not one to state his basketball goals, but he did tell me several years ago that he wanted to win the NBA’s annual Community Assist Award. And this past season he was a finalist for the J. Walter Kennedy Award.

“You always have to leave your thumbprint wherever you go and impact lives,” he said. “No matter where I am, George Hill — the person — is still going to be George Hill, basketball player or not. That’s not what I do all of this for. I do it for the love and to impact lives.”

Hill spoke to the crowd to get the evening started, and then thanked them for their unwavering support while he was in a Pacers uniform.

“I just want to thank you guys from the bottom of my heart. You fans were tremendous. I don’t think words can describe how happy I am to play in front of you guys and this city,” he told the roomful of individuals in formal wear.

It wasn’t easy being the “Hometown hero” for five years with the Pacers. People come out of the woodwork with requests, he often served as a team spokesman when things weren’t going well, and he was one many were quick to blame for shortcomings.

Yet publicly, he refused to complain about his limited role and lack of touches. And when the Pacers needed him more than ever during the 2014-15 season, as star Paul George missed 76 games due to the compound fracture injury, Hill averaged career highs 16.1 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.2 points per game.

This offseason has undoubtedly been refreshing for the 30-year-old.

New start: Traded to Utah
New routine: He spent much of the summer in Indy, rather than Texas
New training plan: Like new teammate Gordon Hayward, Hill worked out with St. Vincent Sports Performance’s team
New family life: In addition to having a seven-month old, George got engaged to Samantha, his longtime girlfriend, on July 4
New home: He isn’t keeping his home on Geist
New opportunities: Hill will immerse himself in the Utah community

Hill hired St. Vincent Sports Performance and began working out with them daily at the Jonathan Byrd Fieldhouse at Grand Park.

“[Worked on] a lot, just trying to be more consistent with the ball in my hands as far as pick-and-rolls and things like that, and my mid-range shot,” he explained. “Been working with Rob Blackwell a lot, really developing my off-the-dribble shot, my reads, and how to create space. St. Vincent Sports Performance really tuned me up this year to be ready and I think they did a great job.”

Three teams that are home to Hill.

Three teams that are home to Hill.

Most importantly, he’s having a blast being a dad. Hill held Zayden, who was in his pjs, most of the night. He fed him mashed potatoes, taught him to high-five, and sat happily with his baby boy in his left arm.

“Samantha and Zayden have been tremendous in my life and really kind of settled me down from this whole transition process. I’m not stressing about it and just having fun this summer and living life.”

And new to his arm are permanent reminders of where he came from. A few days ago, he had a local tattoo artist ink his left forearm with meaningful logos for him: 465, 317, Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Broad Ripple, IUPUI, and G3. And a few more will soon be added.

George has a new perspective on life and on basketball.

It’s only fitting that after the benefit dinner, Hill hopped in a Jeep and rolled down to his home for the last five years, Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He attended the R. Kelly concert.

Next time he takes the turn on Delaware Street and goes underneath the Fieldhouse for parking, he’ll be on a bus with the Jazz when they are here on March 20.

[Click here to see the Pacers’ schedule]

“It’s kind of like you’re going home in another direction,” Hill said in response to the Jazz essentially being Indy West with three other players on roster with Indy ties.

“I’m happy that I’m going to a place where I’m very familiar with some of the guys and the coaching staff and the front office guys is from the San Antonio system. It’s like I’m going back to a place where I already left and I am familiar with, so I’m looking forward to it.”

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