Why is George Hill still important to the Kings?
When De’Aaron Fox might be starstruck for a second, or just too new to the NBA to know the tendencies of his opponent, Hill is around to help.
“I’ll be watching someone who I grew up watching, and (Hill will) say something, and I’ll be like, ‘Wow, I didn’t notice that,’ ” Fox said.
That’s Hill’s value to the Kings these days. Sure, he could produce at a higher level if he played more, but that’s not what the Kings want or need from him, with the emphasis on developing – this season’s buzzword – the roster.
Barring a trade that puts him on a playoff team, this will be the first time Hill will miss the postseason in his career. On the Kings, he has had to reassess success. For Hill, that means he has to “just get better” the rest of the season while realizing his 10.5 points per game will never be viewed as a successful statistic.
“If it’s me with my leadership skills, if it’s me on the court, if it’s me in the weight room or the locker room,” Hill said. “Whatever, just try to do the best I can, stay professional in every situation and have fun doing it. There’s a reason why I’m here. God put me in this situation for a reason that I don’t know. So I’ve got to stay the course, trust the process and keep being a pro about it and figure it out on the fly.”
Many around the Kings praise Hill for what he’s done for the team. His example of staying around for extra work has proven to be a silent nudge to Fox to put in extra time.
He’s forged a bond with Bogdan Bogdanovic, two like-minded basketball souls in that they believe in playing team ball and making the smart play is always the best play.
Hill said his responsibilities are similar to what he, Gordon Hayward, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw were asked to do last season in helping some young Utah players figure out how to win in the NBA.
But Utah was a playoff team, and that hasn’t been the case for the Kings. Utah wanted Hill to help the Jazz win. The Kings want Hill to help the team win – in a couple years.
There’s no tangible way to measure Hill’s impact, but he’s finding joy in this new situation.
“That role has been really fun,” Hill said. “I think we’ve got some great young fellas who are willing to learn and soak up things like sponges. For that process of being a leader ... and talking to them, and helping them with things that I’ve made mistakes with in my career, for them not to make, that’s been a fun process, so I’m all in for that.”
If Hill does not end up being traded to Cleveland or another contender, this will be Hill’s role the rest of the season. Play a game or two and then sit and be the best cheerleader he can be for his $20 million salary.
“I think we’ve all been doing a good job of balancing playing, not playing and the stress that can come with that but also not winning, that stress,” Hill said of how he and the other veterans are dealing with the shift toward more youth. “But at the same time trying to teach these young fellas the importance of having that winning mentality, to know that possessions matter and on the road it’s harder, things like that. So it’s going pretty well.”
The Kings recent slide (seven-game losing streak, losing 10 of 11) is not good, unless you’re focused on pingpong balls and the NBA draft lottery in May.
Sacramento entered Saturday tied with Orlando for the worst record in the NBA, or tied with the Magic for the best chance of landing the first pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
But of course, the worst record does not guarantee landing the first pick in the draft. The Kings had the worst record in 2009 and ended up with the worst-case lottery scenario, the fourth pick.
For all the losing and many nights the Kings cannot get to the foul line, anger has not bubbled over with the officials. The Kings have just 14 technical fouls this season, fewest in the NBA entering Saturday.
In a game that could have major lottery implications, the Kings play at Orlando on Tuesday. The loser of this game might feel like a winner in May.