Q&A with George Hill — on his unusual year, fatherhood, and facing his hometown team

Pacers, Myles Turner, George Hill, Indy

George Hill was back home in Indianapolis over the weekend. It was a business trip with his Cleveland Cavaliers, and not much more. He didn’t have dozens of ticket requests because he chose not to get caught up in that. His focus is on basketball.

It’s been a different, an unusual last 21 months for the 31-year-old. After years of stability and routine, three in San Antonio and five in Indiana, Hill has worn three new uniforms over the last year. The Pacers dealt him to Utah in exchange for fellow Indy native Jeff Teague in a three-team deal just before the 2016 NBA Draft.

Utah was a good fit and he considered staying. But then Gordon Hayward opted to join Brad Stevens in Boston. As part of a last-ditch effort to appeal to him, the Jazz essentially moved on from Hill by sending a first-round pick to Minnesota for Ricky Rubio. Hayward left, Hill got a big pay day — almost $40 million guaranteed for this season and next.

Over that time he’s had a newborn son, Zayden, and his three-month-old daughter, Zoe. His rock has been Sam, his fiancé, plus close family and friends. Hill is a family man and wants more kids.

In February, one month after his daughter was born, the family had to pack up and move from Sacramento to Cleveland after a trade was made. This also placed Hill back in a winning situation, even though there have been plenty of bumps in the road for this group. Growing pains, you could say.

He started all 24 games with the Cavs and averaged 9.4 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game. Hill, however, did not take his suit off on Sunday for Game 4. Back spasms.

Another brand new thing for him to manage. He exited Game 3 early, received treatment several times on Sunday including multiple shots, but he wasn’t quite ready yet. The competitor in him is eager to be back out there and he’s hopeful that treatment and rest will allow him to return for their first-round series against the Pacers.

On Sunday, VigilantSports.com caught up with the Broad Ripple High School and IUPUI product for a wide-ranging interview.

Has this been the most challenging season for you, all things considered?

I think it’s been a good learning lesson for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to be blessed to have the opportunity to play for a championship-contending team. I wouldn’t say it was a challenge, but it’s a tough time in your career when you go through adversity.

Did you learn anything about yourself in the process?

That your support is strong. To be able go to one place and then have to pack up in a day and a half, move to another place and get familiar with that area and then meet new people. And then you go to a new team it’s tough and challenging, but I think my family and friends have been very supportive along the way. I love every bit of my journey so far.

With all the guys you seemingly stay close with, like Ian Mahinmi and C.J. Miles, does that represent how close those Pacers teams were back then?

Definitely so. We’re all still brothers. I talked to Roy [Hibbert] the other day on the phone. I talk to Ian probably every two days. Talk to C.J. every two days. Still keep in touch with D-West. Still keep in touch with all of those guys. I miss those guys dearly but I know we’re all rooting for each other from afar.

How has fatherhood treated you?

I think being a father is the best feeling in America. You get to see your kids grow up, you get to see their personalities unfold and things like that. Just the smile on their faces is what keeps my motor going. Being a father of two now is pretty amazing. Hopefully one day I’m fortunate enough to have two more if my fiancé (Sam) allows me to have that.

What has been like facing your hometown team in the playoffs?

For me it’s really not a big deal no matter who we are facing, I don’t have any grudge against Indiana. I still love them dearly. I still love everybody in this organization. It’s just another opponent that we’re fortunate enough to match up with. I want to win no matter who we are playing.

George Hill, Cleveland Cavaliers, IUPUI, Indy, tattoos

George Hill’s ink of his ties to Indy.

You got several new tattoos of Indy landmarks and things you were involved in before leaving for Utah (September, 2016). Have you added any since then?

I’m going to get some more soon but I haven’t had time.

I got to finish this one [points to the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on his left forearm] first. I got to finish the skyscrapers and all that stuff. I still got to put Lucas Oil Stadium and Bankers Life in here somewhere, and others things about Indianapolis. This is going to be my whole Indianapolis arm, and then I go to do something for my daughter since I got one for my son already.

[Hill on playing in Indy: ‘It’s always home for me’]

About how many ticket requests have you had?

Not that many this year. I wasn’t going to be bothered with that this series.

Last time you were here we talked about you getting involved in trying to save Broad Ripple High School. Was there any progress since then?

We are working with a company called Him by Her. Gary Brackett is involved in it. We’re trying to do the best we can.

Cleveland Cavaliers, 2018 NBA Playoffs, LeBron James

LeBron and the Cavs arrived for Game 4 in the same suit and tie.

You faced LeBron often while here in Indy. Now on the other side, what’s it like to have him as a teammate?

It’s pretty amazing. This guy gets so much criticism for all he does but if you really get to know him, he’s one of the nicest teammates you can ever have and one of the coolest guys I’ve been around.

He’s a very team-oriented guy, it shows in him with the Thom Browne suit deal where it wasn’t just for him, he wanted his team to be involved in it. Not just giving us one suit, giving us three suits all for free. He’s just a caring guy. Anything that he gets, he wants his teammates to benefit from also.

For me, he was always an enemy of mine at first. As a teammate, it’s been phenomenal learning how he prepares, the way he approaches the game and things like that.

Have you picked up on anything from him in terms of how he prepares his body and mind, and having a routine, or did you already have yours in place?

I already have my routine but just to see what he goes through and all his rituals and things like that, nothing ever switches. He does the same thing over and over and over and keeps things consistent. It just shows why he’s been effective for this long and been one of the best, if not the best, to play this game.

Darren Collison, George Hill, Pacers

George Hill defends his former Pacers teammate, Darren Collison. [Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Facing Darren Collison, does that bring back any memories from your battles here (2010-12)?

We didn’t battle, we were teammates. When I was here, it was never fighting for a spot. We both wanted to win the game. As competitors, he’s super competitive like me. We didn’t care who started the game, who finished the game, only thing we always focused on was how we can help our team win games.

At that point he was starting and I was coming off the bench, and I was playing the backup point and sometimes we were playing alongside each other. We had a good connection, good combo. He ended up having that injury and I filled in that spot. We hit the ground running and we were on a hot streak and you didn’t want to mess with that going into the playoffs.

I saw him in Sacramento this past summer and worked out with him as friends. He’s a great guy, I respect him tremendously and love everything about him.

Do we in the media, and even fans, make too much about players facing their former teams or playing in their hometowns? Is that something we talk about more than you guys actually care?

Yeah. It’s a game at the end of the day. Nothing more than a game. Everyone wants to win no matter who they are playing with. At the end of the day we’re all friends but on the court we hate each other. That’s just the competitive side kicking in. Out there, I don’t care who Darren is and I’m sure he doesn’t care who I am. Off the court, we love each other like brothers. It’s the competitive drive that we both have.

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