It was just preseason, but as coach Frank Vogel said of Hill being used in the third quarter of Tuesday’s 103-90 opening win over Minnesota at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers shifted into “PUI” mode.
It sounds like “pooey,” not to be confused with “phooey,” short for IUPUI, where Hill was once a prolific scorer for the Downtown Indianapolis college. That meant Hill earned some extra minutes, during which he was expected to be more offensive.
Consider this mode one of many adjustments for a Pacers squad missing All-Star guard/forward Paul George, who is rehabilitating two broken bones in his right leg and hopes to be back for the playoffs. The added responsibility is a welcome change for Hill, who couldn’t resist some light-hearted banter when asked about how he used to just pass and go to a corner then watch and wait in case the basketball got kicked back outside.
“I sold that real estate,” Hill said of his corner spot. “Nah, it was, you know, a bad view. Didn’t make a lot of money. I kind of lost on it, so I sold it.”
Hill scored 17 points and had seven assists and six rebounds in 20 minutes, 25 seconds of playing time. He was out there for about five more minutes than the other starters.
“I always was a scorer my whole life,” said the seventh-year pro from Indianapolis. “It’s not the fact that I can’t score, it’s the fact of just trying to find the ways of being more aggressive and not be too passive, sitting back and letting everyone else do the work.”
The Pacers without George as well as the free agent-departed Lance Stephenson means Vogel must find added scoring punch. Hill averaged 10.3 points last season, down from a career-high 14.2 points in 2012-13.
“I had the mind-set to play the starters the first half only,” Vogel said, “but I wanted George to be the primary weapon for a few minutes the second half.”
Hill hit 5-of-6 shots including his only 3-pointer, assisted on four baskets and had three rebounds in 6 minutes, 34 seconds of the third quarter, when the Pacers outscored the Timberwolves 36-20. The game wasn’t close the rest of the way.
“George is a versatile guy,” said forward David West, who sat down after the first quarter. “We’re going to need him to be aggressive and assertive. At times, he’s going to have to take tough guarded shots this year, whatever is necessary.”
The Pacers will also need a boost from forward C.J. Miles and guard Rodney Stuckey, free-agent additions who started the exhibition debut. Miles scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds in a little more than one quarter of work. Stuckey contributed nine points and three rebounds in a little more than 15 minutes.
“A solid performance by almost everybody,” Vogel said.
That included rookie reserve forward/center Shayne Whittington, who sank all five of his field-goal attempts as well as a free throw for 11 points.
“I’ve trained all my life for this,” said Whittington, who broke his left fibula before June’s NBA Draft and wasn’t selected. “It’s something I’ve done for quite a long time. People around here really helped me out, calming my nerves. I was a little nervous before the game.”
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.