Larry Bird on George Hill

In his post-draft press conference, Larry Bird let the world know that he and his front office team have coveted the basketball-playing services of George Hill for the past two years. He said there’s “no question this was our deal,” meaning that Indiana initiated the transaction, and that even though there were a few amateurs that he hoped would drop to the Pacers, Hill was the team’s “number-one priority” with the 15th pick.

“We talked to them about George the last two years,” said Bird. “We’ve been talking to them the last couple of weeks. And they didn’t know if they had any interest or not … it just happened after the 14th pick. We was [sic] on the line with them and they decided that their player was still there so we made the trade.”

As Spurs GM RC Buford has stated since the move, it was tough decision for the Spurs to trade Hill. So he must have been that high on Kawhi Leonard and that concerned with how he will divvy up the Spurs’ salary cap in the days after the final sands fall through the Duncan/Many/Parker hourglass.

Most GMs say stuff similar to this after a draft day deal/pick so I wouldn’t put too much stock in all of this. Zach Lowe of SI sums up that sentiment well here. But the point is that Bird has wanted Hill for a while and now he has him. In the eyes of Larry Legend, this is one more piece falling into place for the team’s ballyhooed three-year plan that will culminate in whatever occurs in the months between today and the start of next season.

Whether or not this — or the rest of the plan — actually slingshots the Pacers fortunes forward in any meaningful way is yet to be determined. The summer has been a success so far in Larry’s eyes, though, it seems.

Hill is tentatively scheduled to come to Indiana to speak with Bird on Monday.

I have no info on this and haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere yet, but I am curious as to whether or not the team will discuss a contract extension with Hill this summer. The uncertainty of the CBA negotiations obviously make it a non-starter right now; Indiana would be foolish to lock themselves into any type of deal until they actually know what the new rules of the road will be under the new cap. But once that’s figured out, they may find the subject worth talking about if they really do want Hill for the long-term. The team will eventually have to establish a leaner back-court rotation (more on this later), so any contract talk would essentially show their hand as to whether they expect Hill to definitely be a part of their future or if they just see him as the best value/asset to pick up with the #15th pick in a weak draft.

Because the one decidedly negative thing about trading for Hill as compared to drafting a rookie is that his contract expires much sooner. Under the current CBA, Hill will become a restricted free agent next summer. And while his salary right now is no higher than that of a late lottery pick (he will make $1.4 million in 2011-12), if he performs as well as Bird hopes he will next season, he may be due for a more substantial raise than he could bargain for before this year begins … whenever that might be.

These financial concerns certainly factored into management’s decision. Obviously they feel that Hill’s versatility (he can play both guard spots and defend a wide range of players given his length) and experience even given his young age (he has averaged 30.5 mpg in 20 career playoff games by 24 years old) outweigh the salary factor.

Tags: Bird Talk

  • Tom

    David West just announced he’s going to opt out of the final year of his deal and become a free agent. The Pacers have to go after him, right? He is a 4 who would complement Hibbert and Granger perfectly. He can shoot to 20′ and rebounds well, and is always consistent. We have cap space, so this has to be in play, even if it means trading core rotation guys like Rush and Hansbrough. This kind of Free Agent does not come along every year and perfectly addresses a need. Thoughts?

  • http://Twitter.com/Pacers_Chants @Pacers_Chants

    The Pacers took out a full-page ad in the Indianapolis Star telling George Hill: “Welcome Home.”

    A lot of fans seem to feel the same way. But if you’re impressed by the reaction Thursday’s trade engendered locally, imagine the Pacers bringing in a state hero who hadn’t escaped attention in the shadows of the Summit League.

    Say, Mike Woodson, two-time All-American in the cream and crimson, and fifth-leading scorer in Indiana University history.

    Like Hill, Woodson was born in Indianapolis. Like Hill, Woodson starred at Broad Ripple High School. A lot of people know and love him, statewide.

    Hiring Mike as coach wouldn’t be an Alford-over-Miller move. It’d actually be the “best of both worlds” (channeling some Van Halen lyrics…).

    Point is, Woodson’s qualified. He took a Hawks team that was a 13-win group when he started and turned them into a 53-win club by the time he finished in Atlanta. He built a winning culture over six seasons in what was previously an NBA outpost.

    He could do the same here. But it seems the Pacers’ neighborly nostalgia only goes so far. They draw the line at mildly successful rookie interim coaches.

  • Michael

    TOM-

    West will be 31 when the season starts and coming off knee surgery. He’s not a REAL 4 either. I wouldn’t want him. I’m sure Bird and Morway feel the same way. If he’s opting out of his final year in which he’ll make 7.5 mil, why are you talking about trading Rush or ‘Bro? Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to deal Rush for just about anything (a rack of basketballs). But no need to get rid of a player like ‘Bro for an aging tweener 4 who MIGHT play 60 games this year and is probably looking for upwards of 10 mil/year. Some team will be dumb enough to give him that money. The Pacers don’t need another Jermaine O’neal situation on their hands…

  • Tom

    I didn’t mean trade Rush or Tyler for him, I meant to clear cap space for West if we need it. I know he’s coming off knee surgery, but he wouldn’t be opting out before a new CBA if he didn’t think he would come back all the way and be healthy again. He might be a bit of a tweener, but with Hibbert down low, we don’t need a true 4. West plays the high post very well and can shoot the J consistently, which compliments Hibbert and Granger on the wing. That’s why I like the idea. But agree with you that the price needs to be right. Maybe he’s making a mistake opting out of 7.5mil guaranteed, and there’s a bargain to be had there. All I’m saying is we have to take a look.

  • Michael

    I think you’re making the mistake of thinking Hibbert is a REAL center. He may be 7 feet tall, but when you’re getting blocked by point guards at the rim – you’ve got issues. Lots of people like to compare him to Rik Smits. That’s fine. But remember Rik had the Davis brothers to handle the grind in the paint. West isn’t that guy. We need a REAL 4.