This Kings season is a new experience for just about everyone involved, so forgive George Hill if he hasn’t looked comfortable.
The point guard was drafted by the San Antonio Spurs, perennial playoff participants, before landing with Indiana and challenging the Miami teams led by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.
Last season, Hill was on another playoff team in Utah.
The theme was the same with each team: winning was the ultimate goal. That’s not the case for the Kings, who dropped their second consecutive game, 110-92 to the Washington Wizards on Monday night at Capital One Arena.
The Kings, as an organization, are more focused on developing young talent, which is why a healthy Hill has already rested for one game this season. And Hill has not played like himself this season, not shooting a lot and playing the role of facilitator.
Hill averaged a career-high 16.9 points last season, but entered Monday scoring just 7.4 a game for Sacramento.
Against the Wizards, Hill looked like himself again. He scored 13 of his 16 points in the first quarter and might have had more if the game not gotten out of hand when the youngsters played, squandering a first-quarter lead that Hill and the starters built.
Hill said this season is “definitely different” but says the way he played against the Wizards is what he plans to do going forward.
“I’ve always been on a team where we had a lot of guys who had experience and things like that,” Hill said. “This year has been tough so far, trying to learn the guys, be a mentor and teach at the same time. Plus the fact that sometimes you lose yourself in situations like that. I take full responsibility for the way I’ve been playing. I’ve got to come out with a better George from here on out.”
Hill shot 5 for 9 from the field, including making all three of his 3-point attempts. His 16 points were his third-highest total of the season and the most since he scored a season-high 21 points in an Oct. 20 victory in Dallas.
Nine shots is not a lot, but that’s how many Hill had taken in the previous two games combined. Entering Monday, Hill was averaging 6.9 shots, on pace to be the second-lowest of his career. He averaged 4.8 shots his rookie year.
“On every pick-and-roll I’ve been coming off looking to pass and not being the same guy I’ve been before coming here, looking to score,” Hill said. “Trying to just play the right way and lead by example and things like that. Just talking to Vince (Carter) earlier and some of my family ... they told me to go out there and look to score first and try to make passes second and that’s what I tried to do (Monday).”
Garrett Temple said it was “good to see George get going and be the player we know he is” against the Wizards. The Kings have had issues starting games well, but they built a 10-point lead in the first quarter.
The Kings’ lead disappeared when members of the young second-unit could not deal with Washington’s more experienced reserves.
“We need G. Hill to be aggressive,” Temple said. “We need him to be aggressive with the way this team is built. At the beginning of the season he really didn’t know how to attack his role and we continue to tell him to be aggressive, just play your game and we’re going to fit in around it.”
Hill said he’s committed to being himself on the court. That means shooting, staying aggressive and looking to score and become a score-first player.
“I’ve got to take it upon myself and do what really got me to stay in this league a couple years,” Hill said. “And that’s score the ball.”