Walking up to George Hill after a two-game exhibition with the Texas Fuel seemed so much different than the countless times I interviewed him after games this past season. Aside from trading the silver and black for the Fuel's black and Green, Hill took on a completely different role with this ABA team.
After three years with the San Antonio Spurs, Hill has learned from some of the best and arguably one of the best NBA coaches of all time, and it was definitely worth the five hour trek each way to and from Brownsville to see Hill help a few fellow players.
Before the game, Project Spurs' Paul Garcia and I had a chance to talk to Melvin Smith. Smith is a shooting guard for the Fuel and is no stranger to San Antonio, having played for UTSA for four years. During a few of those years, Smith had a chance to follow Hill's career and had an actual dream of playing with Hill realized this past weekend in the valley.
"After I saw him play, it's making me want to elevate my game to another level. Now I understand what it takes to be a pro. It's going to take more hours in the gym. I work out about 2-3 hours in the gym, but he works out like nine, so I'm going to have to up it to, maybe not nine, but eventually build it up," Smith said.
"He's really smart, he's has a really smart IQ for the game," Smith said. "He was teaching us about spacing because we haven't really put any plays in. He's teaching us how to read screens. He definitely has a high IQ for the game and is helping us out for the long run. "
Apparently Hill looked at the opportunity with the Fuel not only as a way to get in some court time, but as an opportunity to teach.
"Even both teams, I talked to them about different things I learned being a part of the San Antonio Spurs organization. Things I can help them to better their game with. That's what its all about, everyone trying to help everybody," Hill said. "These group of guys do the same things we do, just maybe not get the same chances."
As for getting back on the hardwood, Hill said he had a great time, but not before apologizing for his performance first.
"I'm sorry I gave y'all a bad performance," Hill said after we told him of our trip down from San Antonio.
Apparently in Hills eyes, averaging 34.5 points per game is a bad thing.
"It felt good, the first time I've been on the floor since the pro/am in Indianapolis, so a little winded," Hill said. "I did it because I respect these guys just like I respect my guys. This is a great group of fellas, they play hard here so I had a great time out there."
Aside from the lessons learned by being a part of the Spurs, Hill lit up when asked about the city he's called home the last three years.
"I love it. You know, I was there for three years so they say once a Spur, always a Spur," Hill said echoing R.C. Buford's words after the draft-day trade that sent Hill back home to Indiana.
"I'm always going to have love for the city and the team. The fans treated me with so much respect and you couldn't ask for anything more. Coach Pop was probably the best coach I've ever had in my life on and off the court, not just as a basketball coach but also as a mentor to be a better person off the court. I have high hopes for that organization and love it."
After being one of San Antonio's favorite sons and being a fan favorite for years, Hill moves on to Indiana, where he really is someone's son.
"I'm really looking forward to it. It was always a dream when I first put my name in the draft was to play at home in front of my hometown team and my family and I've been there my whole life so to finally get that opportunity to do that is tremendous and a blessing," the 6-3 guard said. "I'm looking forward to it whenever the season kicks back up."
Recently Hill was in San Antonio working out with several current and former NBA players, and apparently he's trying to get his current center to learn from his past one.
"That's Tim for you. He's a great leader, always trying to get guys in the gym, trying to get better on his own game," Hill said.
"(He) just invited a lot of fellas and they were the ones that showed up and had a great time. I invited Roy Hibbert from my team down, because I thought he could learn a lot from Tim Duncan and help his game. That helped him out tremendously. It was just something fun that Tim took upon himself to try and put together and we had a good time."
After re-uniting with Duncan, Hill hopes to re-unite with another Spurs big man. DeJuan Blair was Hill's closest friend, and Blair seemed to be greatly affected by the trade that sent Hill to the Pacers. But there's a chance Spurs fans will get a chance to see "Big N Smallz" in action again sometime soon.
"I'm thinking about trying to get him down, I think they (Texas Fuel) have another game November 20th in San Antonio so if I can talk to DeJuan and get him back to play one more last game for the city of San Antonio to show our appreciation for the fans for giving me love for all my career there and things like that, we'll try to make something happen," Hill said. "Maybe we can shoot another episode of Big N' Smallz."
With that Hill walked off, giving well-wishes to several Texas Fuel and West Texas Whirlwinds players along the way,
So maybe 34.5 points per game isn't so impressive in the grand scheme of things. But I can't say the same for affecting the careers of 24 players who were lucky enough to be involved in an ABA game in Brownsville this past weekend.
Melvin Smith would agree.
Be sure to check back later this week for video of Hill's interview.
Thanks, Michael, for making the trip and taking the time to really enjoy our exhibition games in Brownsville! George was so influential with our Texas FUEL team. His kindness and willingness to share what he has learned made both teams better. I am glad we won, though! It was a great start to the ABA preseason.