TrueHoop: George Hill

Killer Lineup: The Pacers' stingy starters

February, 25, 2013
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz

Miami Heat
George Hill | Lance Stephenson | Paul George | David West | Roy Hibbert
Minutes Played: 877
Offensive Rating: 107.7 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 93.6 points per 100 possessions

How it works offensively
Pacers coach Frank Vogel is a man who appreciates uniformity. Last season, his team’s primary lineup logged 1,000 minutes. No other unit in the NBA topped 750 minutes. This season, the Pacers’ starters once again lead all five-man units in minutes played -- only this time it’s George Hill and Lance Stephenson in place of Darren Collison (traded during the offseason) and Danny Granger (made his debut Saturday after missing the first 55 games of the season because of patellar tendinosis).

When newly assembled units struggle to find themselves offensively, coaches often will preach patience and time. In the case of the Pacers this season, that largely has worked. With each passing month in Granger’s absence, Indiana’s starting five have grown more comfortable as an offense, and they’ve been impressively efficient in the past 20 games or so.

For one, they get into their stuff more quickly. That swing sequence at the top of the floor that opens many of their half-court possessions -- wing-to-big-to-wing -- happens promptly and crisply. From here, the Pacers generally go one of a few different ways.

First, there’s George, who’s the unit’s most effective (and only true) creator off the bounce. The Pacers might isolate him inside the arc on the left side and let him work over a smaller defender. They’ll also use Hibbert to pin down for George to pop out to the perimeter. With enough separation, George will take the shot, but if his defender is close, he’ll put the ball on the floor.

Comparatively few of George’s possessions originate from high pick-and-rolls. Every once in a while in early offense, West will set a little step-up screen, but George clearly prefers to rub his guy off West or Hibbert at the foul-line extended area about 15 feet from the basket. Overall, George is a player who likes a layer of space around him while he’s working on offense (it’s not unusual to see George politely wave off a pick). Given that tendency, it’s an interesting exercise to imagine him playing alongside some guys who can actually shoot the ball from distance.

With West and Hibbert on the floor, the Pacers look inside a fair amount. There’s a certain obligation to feed Hibbert if his defender ends up on the high side. He’ll also see the ball if the matchup advantage is wildly in his favor. Despite Hibbert’s struggles to find his hook shot, there’s been no detectable fall-off in his touches.

West at the elbow is a higher-grade option. Big men with the ability to control a possession from the high post are becoming a less common breed. From that spot, West can turn around and fire a jumper, but more often than not he surveys the scene. As West watches the defense, he’s patient, scanning the perimeter. Who’s cheating? Who’s inclined to cheat if I get into my move? If West finds something, he’ll kick the ball out. If not, he might unleash a ball fake or just return it to the top of the floor.

The Pacers do a nice job of using West on the weakside elbow as a sensible release option. When teams load up on George on one side of the floor, the Pacers have increasingly looked West’s way as the logical counter. George is getting better and better at reading the court for his next best option, in large part because he’s learned that looking to West at that spot is generally the answer.

The ball doesn’t spend a great amount of time in the hands of Hill, who’s far more of a cutter than an initiator in the half court. Defenses have universally run under any ball screen set for Hill, and he’s become considerably more willing to shoot the 3-ball if given sufficient space. A couple of times a game, Hill will dribble left of one of those picks, then launch a shot from distance. Overall, he’s 36.9 percent from beyond the arc.

The unit generally plays together in six-, eight-, sometimes even 10-minute stints, and at some point, Stephenson will get a chance to initiate in the half court. Stephenson probably will never be a guy with whom you can create beautiful basketball, but playing with this unit has refined him as a player. It’s not just the shooting percentages, which are way up. Stephenson is a better decision-maker, a better mover and still a beast on the break. Sometimes when a player goes from a bench mob to the junior member of a five-man unit, all of the manual labor and errand-running that come with that job make him value his time with the ball more.

How it works defensively
Exceptionally well, which is an affirmation of some traditional truths about basketball. Even as the NBA undergoes a radical sea change with respect to size and position, being big is still an asset. Virtually every single night they take the floor, the Pacers’ starters have an enormous advantage -- literally. With the 6-foot-2 Hill replacing the 6-0 Collison in the first unit, the Pacers have legitimate length at all five positions and tower over opponents. Logically enough, this group works its strength.

It’s tough to move downhill against the Pacers in the half court because everywhere an offensive player turns, there are limbs blocking his path. For similar reasons, it’s also difficult to shoot over the top, move off the ball and more generally, find open parking spots anywhere on the floor. As a result, defenses have to work hard to get clean looks against the Pacers’ first unit.

Strong defenses tend to rotate well, but the elite ones don’t have to rotate at all. We can confidently place the Pacers’ starters in that group. Individually, each perimeter player contains his man at the point of attack, while West and Hibbert can handle just about any one-on-one matchup they’re assigned. Hill, Stephenson and George don’t have to worry about finding shooters because they’re already on top of them anytime they’re within a couple of feet. Opponents get fewer than 15 3-point attempts per 48 minutes against this unit (among the most frequently used lineups, only Chicago’s top two units do better), and converting only 31.3 percent of them.

George is a useful case study in why opponents can’t access normally reliable second and third options after the Pacers stop the ball on the first. It’s fun to watch George defend on the weakside. When he’s off the ball covering a stationary player on the perimeter, George will confidently run through a sequence of motions -- move toward the action on the ball side, dance back a couple of steps when a passing lane to his man opens up, cheat again once that window closes but not without a quick look back to make sure his guy hasn’t moved to a different spot where he could hurt the Pacers.

There’s no science to measure off-ball defense, but when you observe a player make every step toward and away from the action with so much purpose, when bad gambles and iffy decision occur so rarely, it becomes easy to understand how a unit is surrendering only 93.6 points per 100 possessions.

Now, is this a case of a wing player like George having the luxury of playing alongside two big men who can handle the pick-and-roll? Or do the big guys excel because they play with a point guard like Hill who can corral opposing point guards and fight over screens when necessary, and wings like George (6-8) and Stephenson (6-5) who can hold their own against attackers who might post up or drive against lesser defenders?

In the case of Indiana’s featured lineup, the answer is both. There’s a mutual benefit between big and small that carries over from the perimeter to the basket area. Guys remain in their area, but Hibbert has a lot to do with that. He rarely leaves the paint, and why should he, because at 7-2 he’s far more effective playing goalie than he would be commuting from the top of the floor off a hard show or jamming a screener.

If a guard is able to beat Hill or Stephenson, Hibbert lies in wait and can contain him with his outstretched arms, all the while shading his man, which allows West or a weakside defender to stay at home. With few open targets surrounding him, the guard now has to find a way to magically deliver the ball to the hoop against a deceptively quick-footed, lurching giant -- and if he gets close enough, probably a second long-armed defender.

West might be even be a worse candidate for exploitation in the pick-and-roll for an offense. West meets the ball handler way up at the top of the floor, then chases down his original matchup (or other big man if Hibbert picks up West’s guy, sometimes the case when it’s a power forward with some skills). This is an exhausting anaerobic workout for a big guy, but the 6-9 West never stops moving for a second. His gift is knowing how to time his departures and arrivals. West can launch an all-out blitz on a point guard if Jason Maxiell is his man. But if he’s guarding someone who could potentially cause some trouble, especially as a popper, West will temper his attack.

Sometimes, a frustrated offense will all but abandon a pick-and-roll attack against the Pacers, which is why you see opponents stagnate. If you can’t get anything against the pick-and-roll, can’t capably penetrate by isolating your perimeter guys, and if Hibbert is going to confront anyone who gets within 8 feet of the basket, then what do you have?

Finally, with Granger active again, does Vogel take minutes away from this unit to accommodate Granger's return? The more difficult question to answer for Vogel is whether he can afford to.

History says Heat will advance

May, 24, 2012
By ESPN Stats & Information

Michael Hickey/US Presswire LeBron James has at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists in back-to-back postseason games.
Game 6 between the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers (ESPN, 8 ET) will feature several key storylines to watch, including how the Heat replace a suspended Udonis Haslem. Miami will be without one of its best mid-range shooters, as Haslem has made seven mid-range jump shots (outside paint, inside 3-point territory) this series, trailing only LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

Haslem has also been a spark off the Heat's bench in the last three games, scoring double figures in each of the last two. In three games Haslem has come off the bench this postseason, Miami averages 25.7 bench points. In seven games Haslem started, the Heat have gotten only 16.1 points from their bench.

With Dexter Pittman also suspended, the best option for the Heat is likely Ronny Turiaf, as his +13 this series is the highest among the Heat's available big men for Game 6. In this series, Turiaf has played only 65 minutes in five games. However, when he's been on the court, the Heat have outscored the Pacers by 13 points. Miami has also limited Indiana to just 33 percent shooting when he's playing. Also available in the frontcourt are Joel Anthony (+7) and Juwan Howard (+5).

Overall, the Heat appear to be in good position to advance. In NBA history, teams that have held a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series have gone on to win the series 85.9 percent of the time, including 4-0 in the First Round this postseason. In addition, the Pacers have never come back to win a best-of-seven series after trailing 3-2 (according to Elias they are 0-8 all-time).

James has been a prime reason why the Heat can close out the series tonight. He has recorded at least 30 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists in back-to-back postseason games, and if he matches those numbers in Game 6, he will become the first player in NBA history to do so in three consecutive postseason games.

History says James will have another strong performance tonight. According to Elias, James has scored at least 20 points in each of the last 11 potential playoff series-clinching games on the road, the second-longest current streak of any player in the league, behind only Kobe Bryant (19).

Meanwhile, Danny Granger (sprained ankle) has said that he will start Game 6. His play will be crucial, as he has been much better at home this series than on the road (averaging over nine points more at home).

What's more, the combination of himself, Paul George, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and David West have outscored opponents by 75 points when on the court together, the highest of any five-man lineup on any team this postseason.

A key for Indiana will be on the boards. The Pacers have outrebounded the Heat 102-76 in their wins in Games 2 and 3, but have lost the battle on the boards in their losses in Games 4 and 5 (outrebounded 96-73). When Hibbert is on the court, the Pacers are +15 rebounding, but with him off are -19.

Pacers' starting five is punishing the Heat

May, 18, 2012
By Ryan Feldman

Michael Hickey/US PresswireThe Pacers starting five has given LeBron James and the Heat fits in the first three games.
The longer the Indiana Pacers can keep their starting five on the court, the better chance they have to eliminate the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Indiana’s starting five of Paul George, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, George Hill and David West has been the most successful five-man lineup in this year’s postseason. It has a better plus-minus, has scored more points and has a better rebounding margin than any other five-man lineup in the playoffs.

In eight postseason games, Indiana's starting five has outscored its opponents by 79 points and outrebounded them by 68.

During the regular season, George, Granger, Hibbert, Hill and West started just eight games together, and the Pacers were 7-1 in those games. They played just 229 minutes together and outscored their opponents by 72 points.

In the playoffs, they’ve already played together for 176 minutes, and the formula continues to be successful.

This postseason, Indiana’s starting five:

• Has more than double the second-chance points (70) of any other five-man lineup. (Second are the Lakers and Magic with 30.)

• Leads all lineups in points in the paint (152) and points off turnovers (58).

• Has outscored its opponents by 56 points in the paint (152-96), has 30 more second-chance points (74-44) and 18 more fast-break points (42-24).

When George, Granger, Hibbert, Hill and West were on the court in Game 3, they outscored the Heat 68-40.

The starting five shot 52 percent from the field (including 6-of-10 on 3-pointers) and outrebounded the Heat 32-15. That lineup held the Heat to 33 percent shooting from the field and 1-of-10 on 3-point attempts. They also outscored the Heat 13-0 on second-chance points.

Every other Pacers lineup was outscored by nine.

Since the 2008 playoffs, only four lineups have finished with a plus-minus that’s been as good as Indiana’s +79. Three of those teams reached the NBA Finals and two won the NBA championship, including the Mavericks’ lineup last year of Tyson Chandler, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry.

Statistical support for this story from

Absent Derrick Rose, Bulls become Pacers

April, 30, 2012
Mason By Beckley Mason

Knicks, Nuggets each clinch playoff spots

April, 3, 2011
By ESPN Stats & Info
It's only fitting that on the same day, Carmelo Anthony's new team, the New York Knicks, and his old team, the Denver Nuggets, would each clinch a playoff berth.

The Knicks defeat of the Cleveland Cavaliers, coupled with a loss by the Charlotte Bobcats, put New York in the postseason for the first time since the 2003-04 season.

The six-season drought was just one shy of a franchise record (seven seasons from 1959-66).

Before this recent drought the Knicks had missed the playoffs just nine times in 28 seasons following the NBA merger (1976-77).

Amar'e Stoudemire led the way with 28 points, while Carmelo Anthony (25) and Chauncey Billups (23) each eclipsed the 20-point mark for the Knicks who moved back to the .500 mark.

The Nuggets, defeated the Los Angeles Lakers to clinch their eighth straight playoff berth.

They were the first team to beat the Lakers at the Staples Center since the San Antonio Spurs did so on February 3.

The Nuggets have won six straight overall and are now 11-games over .500 since the trade.

They are three games behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the fourth spot in the Western Conference, but face off against Kevin Durant and company in two of their next three games.

It would be huge for Denver to catch them as the Nuggets are 9-0 at home since the All-Star break.

The Lakers loss coupled with the Spurs win provided some breathing room for San Antonio.

The Spurs picked up their first win in seven games thanks to a large contribution from their bench against the Phoenix Suns.

San Antonio's bench did most of its damage from 15-feet and beyond.

According to video surveillance the Spurs reserves shot 60 percent from the field and scored 41 of their points from that range.

During the team's six game losing streak their bench shot under 40 percent from that area, scoring just 15.8 points per game on those attempts.

George Hill and Matt Bonner led the way as the Spurs reserves scored more total points (73) than the Suns starting five (61).

Bonner was a team-best plus-31 while on the court in just 24 minutes of action.

Elsewhere around the NBA:

• The Miami Heat defeated the New Jersey Nets to improve to 11-2 since their 5-game losing streak.

The Heat clinched the Southeast Division title with their win coupled with a loss by the Orlando Magic to the Toronto Raptors.

• The Boston Celtics shot over 60 percent from the field and from three-point range in their win over the Detroit Pistons.

It’s the second time this season the Celtics have done so. The rest of the NBA combined has two such games.

It’s the fourth time in the last 25 seasons the Celtics have had two such games in a season, and first since the 1990-91 campaign.

Friday Bullets

August, 20, 2010
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

  • Anthony Morrow set a new Summer League record with 47 points against the Hornets
  • Joe Alexander, as much as anyone on the Bucks' roster, will benefit from Brandon Jennings' fluency at running the break. Alexander can run the floor well for a combo forward, and knows how to fill the lane in transition. Thursday, he also harnessed his athleticism and got points driving to the hole with authority against some slower Toronto defenders. He also ran the pick-and-roll as the ball man effectively. All in all, another good outing for Alexander. 
  • DeMar DeRozan: moving well off the ball. In the second quarter against the Bucks, he made a beautiful back door cut to the hole from the weak side the instant he recognized that the defense was sloughing off him a bit. The result? A perfect lob pass from Quincy Douby, and a vicious slam by DeRozan. He was also undeterred by tight coverage from Jodie Meeks at about 15 feet off the left block. Even with Meeks on top of him, DeRozan managed to get remarkable separation and elevation on his jumper under pressure. Coming hard off screens, DeRozan easily got free from Jodie Meeks. More on DeRozan from Holly MacKenzie here
  • Chase Budinger Chase Budinger: Averaging 17.8 point per game on 68% shooting.
    (Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

  • Speaking of Meeks, he's still primarily a spot-up threat, which limits his ability to get to the line (23 attempts from the floor, but only one from the line), so it was nice to see him take it to the hole on occasion ... and finish.
  • Meeks and Jennings had great chemistry on Thursday, especially in the third quarter. On a high pick-and-roll for Jennings, the rookie point guard beat the trap. When the help sloughed off Meeks, Jennings kicked a perfect pass to his shooter, and Meeks drained the shot. Meeks' next two buckets from Jennings came in transition. On both breaks, Jennings waited patiently for Meeks to spot up, then perfectly timed his pass to Meeks, hitting him in rhythm. Both shots fell. On a crucial possession in the game's final minute, Jennings found Meeks again on the drive-and-kick, for a 3-pointer that put the Bucks ahead a point. Meeks finished the game with 29 points, including 4-for-8 from beyond the arc. 
  • Brandon Jennings was really aggressive off screens when he split the trap and recognized that the back line rotation was slow. As a result, he forced fewer bad shots and had an easier time finishing at the cup.
  • Apart from Adam Morrison, the Lakers have few recognizable names on their Summer League roster. Morrison didn't play Thursday, which left some additional shots for David Monds. The journeyman forward took full advantage of the opportunities, nailing a slew of mid-range jumpers on his way to 14 points and 6 rebounds -- may not sound like a lot, but the Lakers' summer league team is a little impoverished. 
  • Chase Budinger put up the best line of the day outside of Anthony Morrow: 25 points on 13 possessions. The forward out of Arizona might have the sweetest stroke in town. The challenge for most pure shooters in the NBA, of course, is finding good looks. This week, Budinger hasn't had any trouble. "He has a knack for getting open," Rockets' assistant Eltson Turner said. "He moves well without the basketball, and you can't leave him. That fits our style."
  • On the day he signed a 4-year, $3.8 million contract, DeJuan Blair gave the Spurs a good look at their investment against the Thunder, scoring 20 points on 13 possessions. Blair battled underneath all afternoon, muscling up for putbacks. But there was more to Blair's repertoire, including some wily dribble moves from the top of the key. "They shouldn't have passed on me," Blair said of the Thunder. 
  • Thunder general manager Sam Presti is collecting versatile pieces to round out an increasingly mature Oklahoma City roster. To that end, Kyle Weaver's game is hard not to like. He wasn't the Thunder's top scorer Thursday, but he gave his team a reliable handle, solid on-ball defense for most of the night on George Hill, and some timely shooting. The Thunder's backcourt is standing room only, but in Weaver, Scott Brooks has a guy who knows his way around the court. For more on Weaver, check out Darnell Mayberry's profile in the Oklahoman.
  • In the first half of the Clippers-Grizzlies game, Blake Griffin (No. 1 overall) goes for 12 points and 11 boards, while Hasheem Thabeet (No. 2 overall) goes for 4 points (0 field goals) and 1 rebound. David Thorpe at halftime: "Griffin played as if he was an undrafted player from Bulgaria trying to impress everyone in the place, in search of a job next year. Thabeet jogged around, bumped a few people, and generally seemed uninterested. Passion is a talent."
  • Tarence Kinsey wins the Kevin Martin Award: 20 points on two field goals ... but 16-for-18 from the stripe.
  • The Warriors' rookies serenade Anthony Randolph on his 20th birthday

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz 

Five days down, five to go at Las Vegas Summer League. Some teams are nearly through with their schedule, while others are just rolling into town. Since we're halfway through, it's a good moment to take inventory of what we've seen so far, and hand out some early awards.

Keep in mind that some teams have played only a single game and some stellar performances might not be acknowledged (read: Jerryd Bayless): 

All-Rookie Team

  • Tyreke Evans (SAC): Evans' one-on-one power game has produced a sick line. In three games, Evans has averaged 24.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Most impressively, Evans has attempted 41 free throws in three games. His transition to point guard is a work in progress, but he'll be a scoring machine no matter where he plays on the floor.

    Tyreke Evans Tyreke Evans has shown the ability to score points at will.
    (Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

  • Blake Griffin (LAC): Griffin followed up his momentous 27-point, 12-rebound debut Monday night with a hum-drum 16-point, 9-rebound, 5-assist performance. Griffin directs traffic on both ends of the floor, and has been a pleasant surprise on pick-and-roll defense -- something he didn't encounter a whole lot at the college level. 
  • Darren Collison (NOH): The Hornets' first-round pick has brought the discipline and patience of his UCLA pedigree to the pro game. He matched George Hill mano-a-mano in his first game, then came back Tuesday night with 23 points. He's also a perfect 16-for-16 from the stripe in his two games. 
  • Roddy Beaubois (DAL): Before the Mavericks' rookie point guard took a scary spill Monday night in his third outing, he was electrifying crowds in Cox Pavilion with his combination of speed and range. He ran up 34 points against the Rockets Saturday night, including 7-for-12 from beyond the arc. 
  • Jodie Meeks (MIL): The second-round pick out of Kentucky might not be one of the more athletic two-guards here, but he has lit it up from midrange, averaging 16.7 points per game on 60 percent shooting. The Bucks' brass is said to be very, very pleased.

All-Sophomore Team

  • Anthony Randolph (GSW): Quite simply, the most dominant, skilled, devastating player in town. On Tuesday, his 42 points tied a Summer League record. His current averages through four games: 26.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.0 blocks on 60.9 percent shooting from the field.
  • George Hill (SAS): Hill has demonstrated a complete command of the Spurs offense. He has picked his spots offensively, and finished -- unlike last year, when he shot eight percent from the field in Summer League action. He's averaging 20.5 points per game and getting to the line at will.
  • Eric Gordon (LAC): In his two games, the Clippers' second-year guard has muscled his way to the hole for 21 and 22 points, respectively. His 21-for-22 totals from the free-throw line demonstrate that strategy is working well. 
  • Robin Lopez (PHX): The question surrounding Lopez has been one of resolve, but Lopez looked fierce in his first Summer League game, racking up 24 points, 16 boards, and a couple of blocks.
  • DeAndre Jordan (LAC): Jordan's athletic attributes have never been in question. Whether he could package it all together into a coherent low-post game was another matter. So far, Jordan has dominated the interior for the Clippers. He's shooting 15-for-19 from the field. He's shown sharp recognition in the post and is winning every race to the basket.  

All-Vets & Journeymen Team

  • Quincy Douby (TOR): Douby has been working hard on his game, and his effort is paying off in Las Vegas. He's shooting the ball efficiently from distance, racking up assists, and keeping turnovers to a minimum. Toronto may not have room for him in their backcourt, but his 19 points per game on 61.1 percent shooting should catch someone's attention. 
  • Nick Young (WAS): The Wizards haven't even unpacked, but Nick Young's first game Tuesday night was a revelation. The third-year guard went insane, running up 36 points on 13-for-19 shooting, against the Cavs' hapless perimeter defenders. 
  • Adam Morrison (LAL): It might not be the most efficient stat line of the week, but Morrison has put together a nice series of games. He's scored from distance, off cuts, and by putting the ball on the deck. It's a long road back for Morrison, but this week has served as a solid stepping stone back to respectability. 
  • David Monds (LAL): The forward spent last summer in the D-League, and has been a solid contributor to the Lakers' 3-1 Summer League record thus far. He's averaging 14 points and five rebounds, and only 0.5 turnovers per game. He's also shooting an efficient 64.1 percent from the field.
  • Walker Russell, Jr. (D-League Select): A sentimental choice off the D-League Select roster, Russell is a creative, pass-first point guard. He sees the floor with an uncanny awareness of exactly where his teammates are, and where they want the ball. His pinpoint passes were the highlight of the Select team's victory over the Timberwolves. 

All-The-Week-Isn't-Working-Out-So-Far Team

David Thorpe shares his thoughts about who's had a disappointing week in Vegas

  • Stephen Curry Curry has struggled with his shooting touch, while Randolph can't seem to miss.
    (Garrett Ellwood/NBA via Getty Images)

    Stephen Curry (GSW): The good news for Curry is that he's been able to get shots -- largely because the ball has been in his hand. He's picking his opportunities. Unfortunately, he's picking far too many of them. Although he's averaging 19.5 points per game, he's doing it on only 31.4 percent shooting. His assist/turnover ratio? 4.5 to 3.75. 
  • Donte Greene (SAC): Greene is a bit of collateral damage playing next to Tyreke Evans. He needs the ball in the right spots, and Evans can't deliver those passes yet. So Greene is struggling to score efficiently, shooting only 8-for-27 over three games. 
  • Mike Taylor (LAC): Taylor can shoot, is lightning quick, and plays with spirit. But he's not been able to put it together and doesn't look like a rotation point guard. 
  • Bobby Brown (MIN): Sorry to break fellow Titan Marc Stein's heart, but for a team that just drafted two rookie PGs, Brown hoped to show this week that he could be part of the Timberwolves' backcourt rotation. That's looking unlikely. He's shooting 35.7 percent from the field, and not giving the 'Wolves much else. 
  • Luc Mbah a Moute (MIL): Mbah a Moute has already proved he's a rotation player in this league. He was hoping to show that he can be more than just a tough defender. Thus far, that hasn't happen

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz
  • One of my favorite matchups of the day was Darren Collison-George Hill. As David Thorpe pointed out in his twitter thread, Hill is a brutal guy for Collison to have to deal with on the first day of class. Hill was able to shoot over Collison, shake him off the dribble, and beat him in transition with his combination of handle and speed. But Collison put together a few nice sequences of his own, including one in the third quarter on a screen-and-roll with Earl Barron: Collison was able to penetrate off the screen, then lob a pretty floating pass to Barron, who slammed it home. In general, Collison marshaled the floor with confidence. The most notable feature of his halfcourt game as a point guard: Patience (hello, UCLA). He attacked only when he had an invitation, rarely forced a pass, and executed high-percentage feeds to the right guys on numerous occasions.  
  • DeJuan Blair: As advertised -- intuitive, beastly rebounder (10 in 23 minutes), goes up with force on the putback, great at drawing contact inside, but occasionally lacks a plan of attack in the post. He finished with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field, and 5-for-6 from the strip in his very Millsapian effort. 
  • Jonny Flynn communicates to his team on every offensive possession. He choreographs, directs, goads, and encourages. When teammates need to move from the weak to the strong side for an entry pass, Flynn barks out an order -- and he's almost always right. Flynn coughed the ball up seven times on Sunday against seven assists, but his management skills are there.
  • Is two Summer League sessions one too many? The Thunder, the only team playing in both Summer Leagues, just came off five games in five days in Orlando, with most of their primary names logging big minutes. The team looked exhausted Sunday in its 86-57 loss to Memphis. The Thunder recorded 22 turnovers, but only 20 field goals. 
  • Marcus Williams managed the game perfectly for the Grizzlies. He worked the ball to the right guys at the right spots, picking up 17 assists in 28 minutes. It helps when Sam Young is nailing jumpers and Darrell Arthur is finishing with authority, but Williams simply controlled the game. "He did a great job getting into the paint," Memphis assistant Dave Joerger said. "We ran different pick-and-roll looks and he picked the defense apart." Williams is a frustrating player to figure out. His pure point skills are apparent almost every time he takes the floor. His court vision is otherworldly. But as selective as he is as a playmaker getting other guys nice looks, he takes a lot of iffy shots himself -- to say nothing of his defense, where he doesn't seem to care all that much.
  • If you're the Grizzlies, Hasheem Thabeet's debut was encouraging. The Grizzlies haven't had a banger like Thabeet beneath the basket ... ever, really. He intimidated Serge Ibaka and anyone else on the Thunder who stepped foot into the paint. Will Thabeet be able to have that effect against a legitimate, veteran NBA center? If the answer is yes, Memphis will be an improved defensive squad in 2009-10, if nothing else. 
  • Brandon Jennings has some good instincts, but sometimes he misreads the game. A perfect example came in the second quarter against the Cavs. He drew big man Jawad Williams on the switch out on the perimeter. With the floor spread, Jennings had the opportunity to use his quicks to blow by Williams. What does he do instead? A cutesy crossover, then a step-back jumper from beyond 20 feet that wasn't close.
  • Fast forward to the second half, when Jennings came out of the locker room (it's really just a curtained-off alcove in the far corner of the gym) and hit three consecutive long-distance shots. His stroke still lacked a follow-through and his balance was tipsy, but the shots fell through. David Thorpe: "The guys with good form shooting the ball, but don't have great numbers? They worry me. The guys who don't look good shooting the ball like Jennings and Ricky Rubio, but somehow find a way to make shots? Those guys will learn to shoot better. They already have the talent to hit shots now -- even with bad form. As you clean up their form, they'll put up better and better numbers." Jennings scored 23 points and dished out eight assists against only three turnovers in the Bucks' win over the Cavaliers. He went 4-for-8 beyond the arc, and worked his way to the line for six attempts -- all of it a big improvement over his first game. 

George Hill's Second Act

July, 12, 2009

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

The Spurs' George Hill was horrible in the 2008 Summer League.

How bad?

He shot 8% from the field.

You read that correctly. 

But a year with the Spurs' coaching and development staff can do wonders for a young guard. The results were evident on Sunday in the Spurs' first Summer League game. Hill scored 25 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field, and a perfect 11-for-11 afternoon from the stripe. Hill was aggressive going to the hoop, and a menace in transition. 

We caught up with him after the game. 

Is having Michael Jordan as owner-operator in Charlotte more than just a conflict of interest? Speaking of Carolina guards -- does the acquisition of Ty Lawson mean the end of Anthony Carter's days in Denver? And what does organized chaos on the court look like at the junior high level? 

Michael JordanRob Mahoney of Hardwood Paroxysm: "In spite of all of [Michael] Jordan's reasonable success in the recent past, having him as the head of an ownership group is not only ill-advised, but flat-out irresponsible. He's the head of basketball ops in Charlotte, and elevating him to the majority shareholder in the team bears one flaw of cataclysmic proportions: No matter how terrible of an executive Jordan is or ever will be, he holds his own purse strings. That means Jordan himself would have to be resigned to stepping down from his duties if that time ever came, which is not exactly the kind of thing you'd like to bank on. Jordan, as a player and a person, is renowned for his passion for the game, his refusal to quit, and his must-win mentality. On the court, those things are an asset. But in the case of an executive with a seriously blemished record, confidence becomes arrogance, resolve becomes stubbornness, and desire becomes insanity. The Bobcats can live with Jordan right where he is: just tasting the power of ownership but without the ball in his hands at all times. MJ is going to keep calling for that power and that responsibility as long as he's a manager in this league, but sometimes a person just needs to be told, 'No.'"

Anthony CarterJeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company: "[W]hy do so many Nuggets fans love to hate Anthony Carter? Maybe it is because he reminds us all a little too much of ourselves. We watch the NBA to see world-class athletes do things that we could never dream of doing. When we see Carter, he rarely does anything fancy and he always seems to be a heartbeat away from getting embarrassed. Maybe watching him play is a little too personal for many of us. Not only does Carter get the job done, but his real value is that he is a real value. It is amazing that Carter does what he does for the league minimum. That makes Carter almost invaluable for a team that has very little wiggle room when it comes to finances. With the presence of Ty Lawson next season Carter's place on the Nuggets roster could be in jeopardy. I thought there was a very telling quote ... where Chauncey [Billups] said that with Lawson on board maybe he can play fewer minutes. That was a pretty big condemnation of Carter ... [T]he primary area of concern with Lawson is his defense. If he cannot get the job done on the defensive end the Nuggets are going to have to have another option ... Until we see what Ty Lawson can do, I think it is a no-brainer that the Nuggets bring Carter back for next season and there are few players that bring as much value as Carter."

Red AuerbachZach Harper of Hardwood Paroxysm: "I started assistantly coaching junior varsity basketball for a local high school ... It didn't just find a place in my life. It didn't just become part of my schedule. It became my schedule ... I was so hooked after my first practice with this group of 10 high school freshmen and one eighth-grade child that I realized an even deeper love and appreciation for the game of basketball. We traipsed through the first couple of weeks of our summer league by learning the correct ways to play basketball and by learning the strengths and weaknesses of our team. We figured that our team wasn't very big or athletic but we had a lot of basketball skill from our best player to our 11th best player. We played our first game four weeks ago and in that game, we learned everything we needed to know about our team for the rest of the summer. We were good. Check that. We were REALLY good. We were chaos masked in peach fuzz, braces and XBOX Live handles. We were a running, pressing team that played harder than anybody we faced and more hectic than Don Nelson's brand of basketball could ever dream of being. And we won. A lot."

Warriors World: An interview with Anthony Randolph's high school coach.
Knickerblogger: A new Similarity Score for measuring players. 
48 Minutes of Hell: The value of George Hill.

(Photos by Streeter Lecka, Kevork Djansezian, Robert Riger/NBAE via Getty Images)

The most intense opening weekend in NBA postseason history produced a full circuit of coming out parties, a slew up road upsets, a novel's worth of intriguing storylines, and enough anxiety to power Amway Arena:

Tim DuncanTimothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell: "The key to this series is slowing the attack of Dallas' backcourt. My conviction on this point rose to new levels on Saturday. [J.J.] Barea's strong play sounded one alarm, and Tim Duncan's legs sounded another. Tim Duncan's statline looks fine and all, notching 27 points and 9 boards. But he looked a step slow to me, which we should expect from a man nursing injury ... If Tim Duncan is not able to rotate and protect with his usual First Team All-NBA defense, the Spurs are in trouble. The little guys need to help their all-world big by clamping down on the perimeter. And Gregg Popovich needs to give Tim Duncan support by swallowing his vet-first prerogatives and playing George Hill." 

Derrick RoseMatt McHale of By the Horns: "The kid was unflappable. He never looked panicked or even worried. When he was interviewed at halftime (with the Bulls holding a surprising 9-point lead) and after the game (after Chicago's even more surprising victory), he wasn't even breathing hard. It was amazing. [Derrick] Rose hit some shots that were just redonkulous. Long jumpers with the shot clock winding down, driving layups in the heart of the Celtic defense (including one in which he got fouled right before lofting it up one-handed on the baseline from slightly behind the backboard). In some ways, it was nearly as fantastic as Michael Jordan's legendary 63-point performance against the C's back in 1986…or maybe more fantastic, since Rose's effort resulted in an overtime win instead of a double-overtime loss."

Chauncey BillupsJeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company: "The Nuggets know how important this series is for the franchise and to start the game they played like they felt the pressure ... Denver was certainly the hungrier team and they showed it. Whenever two teams play each other for a week or two they develop some bad blood and you get some shoving matches, harsh words and intense glares. Tonight's game felt like game four from that standpoint ... defensively and on the boards [the Nuggets] made sure they accomplished what they wanted, whether holding their ground or clearing space.  They were not bumping into other players away from the ball just to be physical, they were playing basketball physically."

Piston Powered: Anyone and everyone who writes about the Pistons discuss the state of the team.
: How the Hawks' defense came together at the right time.
Orlando Magic Daily: The Magic's to-do list for Game Two.
Raptors Republic: In-depth evaluation of Toronto head coach Jay Triano

(Photos by Ronald Martinez, Brian Babineau, Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

On today's Shootaround -- the NBA and the Open-Ended Question: Is the Association entering a new Golden Age? Is Paul Pierce "the greatest Celtic of the post-Bird era"? Is LeBron the league's best defender?  Show your work.  

Team USAM. Haubs of The Painted Area: "This has been one of the most incredible seasons for individual performances in NBA history. All of the top 5 guys on the list have been truly outstanding, truly MVP-worthy. LeBron had a season for all time. D-Wade turned in one of the best-ever sustained stretches of all-around play after the All-Star break, and never had a chance for the MVP. CP3 had one of the best statistical seasons for a point guard ever, yet he's 3rd for me, and will probably finish 5th in the balloting. Kobe was the leader of a 65-17 team and once again the top clutch scorer in the league. Howard was the only star on an improbable 58-win team, and the likely Defensive Player of the Year as the anchor of the league's no. 1 defense ... Throw in Brandon Roy and his merry band of under-25s in Portland, and 20-year-old Kevin Durant, and the 2010s are shaping up to be one of the great golden ages of basketball history."

Paul PierceZach Lowe of Celtics Hub: "If, in a week or so, Orlando is struggling against a quick and hungry Bulls team that takes care of its home court, while the Celtics are handling a banged-up Sixers team in the first round, remember this game. Remember when Philly torched a lazy Celtics defense for an 11-0 first half run (a run created off Celtic misses, not turnovers, and this is important). Remember when Sam Dalembert closed the first half scoring by getting so far behind the Celtics defense for an alley-oop he looked like a wide receiver sprung open on a flea-flicker. But remember most of all when the greatest Celtic of the post-Bird era told the team, with his harsh words in the huddle and his 12-of-16 shooting on the court, that their performance in the first half was unacceptable. That it was unbecoming of a championship team. Paul Pierce carried the team to this win..."

LeBron JamesJohn Krolik of Cavs the Blog: "I've become so used to arguing passionately that LeBron was the best player in the league this time of year I have leftover righteous anger now that LeBron has had a good enough year to just power right through all the circular logic and political crap that has kept him from winning the award before. So I'm going to use my righteous anger to make the case that LeBron deserves very, very serious consideration for the defensive player of the year award like no player since Duncan took home the award."

48 Minutes of Hell: What happened to George Hill
Orlando Magic Daily: Who's the Magic's enforcer? The guy in the rumpled suit.
Roundball Mining Company: Who would the Nuggets rather see in Round One -- Dallas or New Orleans?

(Photos by Kevork Djansezian, Jesse D. Garrabrant, Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Hornets prevail in a must-win game over the Spurs, in which Bruce Bowen records a DNP-CD. Stephon Marbury is starting to figure out his role with the Celtics, while Iverson will have to adjust to his in Detroit. Read all about "Sixth Men: Past, Present, and Future" at the TrueHoop Network: 

Chris PaulRyan Schwan of Hornets247: "Simply put, Chris Paul came out at half time and proved he was the best player on the floor.  I could fill up an entire observations section just with all the incredible plays he pulled out in that game.  It's such a joy to watch him play. As what usually happens in good wins with the Hornets, [David] West carried the team in the first half, scoring 14 and serving as the focal point for the offense.  In the second, Paul shifted from fourth gear to Warp 9 and carried the team to victory ... That was a big game, and it went into the 'Do Not Delete' section of my TIVO, so when I am without a game to watch in the off-season, I can fire that one up.  Winning without Peja, Tyson and Posey was pretty big."

Bruce BowenTimothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell: "As Coach Popovich creeps closer to setting a rotation, it appears that Ime Udoka will get minutes behind Michael Finley. I'll stop short of making bigger pronouncements. It was only one game. Popovich is certain to use [Bruce] Bowen as a spot defender between now and the time he retires.  But I have to say, Pop is taking a gamble. Udoka is a tough-nosed defender, but even at his best moments he is not a versatile, game changing defender like Bruce Bowen. Bowen is a special player in that way. Or, reading into Pop's decision, Bowen was a special player in that way.  But Udoka does do some things better than Bowen. His offense is more varied (and erratic), he can handle the ball, and his rebound rate is 10.6, making him one of the better rebounding small forwards in the league. Defensively, Udoka does a better job against balky players like Ron Artest. But unlike Bowen, Pop won't call his number against Chris Paul -- he'll put George Hill into the game. If Sunday's rotation more or less sticks for the postseason, Popovich's gutsy decision to favor Udoka over Bowen will play a prominent role in determining San Antonio's championship aspirations, for good or ill."

Stephon MarburyBrian Robb of Celtics Hub: "Starbury only scored 2 points on 1/4 shooting but he did have 7 assists compared to just 1 turnover in 22 minutes to go with a +12 on the floor. There have been some growing pains in the past 10 plus games for the point guard but he is finally starting to look comfortable with the bench unit by distributing the ball to his teammates in the right spots ... a lot of these assists came off of some nice penetration, allowing him to draw multiple defenders to create dunks and open jumpers for his teammates. Great news to see him putting it together at the right time."

Piston Powered: Allen Iverson, Sixth Man -- A History.
Daily Thunder: Are OKC's best players named Sefolosha and Weaver
Raptors Republic: Toronto is putting all the pieces together ... in late March.  

(Photos by Layne Murdoch, D. Lippitt/Einstein, Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

Posted by Kevin Arnovitz

No team has mastered the rote exercise of the 82-game slog like the San Antonio Spurs. November losses are regarded as teaching moments, and suggestions that the roster is too old are shrugged off as alarmist.  It's not that anyone in San Antonio thinks that laying an egg at home to a division rival should be dismissed, or that the durability of the team's best players is unimportant.  But it's small.  And the Spurs never sweat the small stuff.  

Mike Finger at the San Antonio Express-News notes, "The Spurs are now 0-3 for the first time since they started playing with monochromatic basketballs."  That's after a 98-81 spanking at the hands of Dallas last night, a game that was never closer than 10 after halftime.  The silver lining?  The Spurs got a closer -- and first regular-season -- look at their first round draft pick, combo guard George Hill out of IUPIU.

Finger recounts a funny story about Hill and Gregg Popovich on draft day, when the rookie had his phone turned off.  When Popovich finally got hold of Hill after several unsuccessful attempts, he chewed out his new rookie for not picking up.  Popovich was just engaging in a little shtick at Hill's expense, but the rookie thought his coach was dead serious.  

Last night, his team down double-digits in the third quarter, Popovich called the Hill's number again:

After sitting out the first two games of the season with a sprained left thumb, [Hill] finally made his entrance late in the third quarter, with the Spurs down by 19.

He clanged his first jumper, but when Popovich didn't rip his head off, he settled down and sparked the Spurs' only lively run of the game. One of the reasons Popovich was so high on Hill from the beginning was his defense, and Hill showed why as he hounded Jason Terry and ran at Jason Kidd. He made a steal that led to two free throws, hit a jumper off a screen, and attacked DeSagana Diop by going to the same left hand that was wrapped in athletic tape.

Early in the fourth quarter, with the Spurs closing the gap and the shot clock down to its last three ticks, Hill dribbled on the right wing, apparently oblivious to the time crunch. The Spurs assistants all yelled frantically from the other end of floor, but Hill was just lulling his defender to sleep. He spun into the lane and hit a floater just as the shot-clock expired.

"He's got great composure, Popovich said of Hill, who finished with 11 points. "That's the great thing about him.

Judging by how the Spurs have struggled this first week, they'll need more than just composure. Their three losses have come to playoff teams, sure, but none that are expected to finish in the top half of the Western Conference playoff bracket. Won't the Lakers, Jazz and Hornets make the Spurs look even older?

Hill represents one remedy for that, but he said he doesn't feel the pressure of living up to such expectations. He didn't worry about proving himself when he arrived in San Antonio, because he figured the Spurs knew what they were doing when they drafted him. Wasn't this the organization that found Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili?

"Nobody knew who they were, either, Hill said. "The way I see it, with this team, I can't go wrong.