George Hill on playing in Indy: ‘It’s always home for me’

George Hill was traded by the Pacers to the Utah Jazz in June. It was right before the 2016 NBA Draft and the Pacers executed a deal to bring in Jeff Teague, who they hope is the team’s point guard of the future.

Hill was upset that after keeping his feelings to himself the last several seasons and doing what he was told on the court, the Pacers felt that they were better off without him.

That’s why it was no surprise that Hill made it personal and poured in 30 points, a season-high at that point, in January.

Back home in Indianapolis for the Jazz’s annual visit, Hill and the team practiced at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday afternoon. Then, he had Caplinger’s Fresh Catch park its mobile food truck outside as a treat to the team.

“It’s always special anytime I come here,” Hill said Monday, speaking for 90 seconds after Utah’s shootaround. “I’m from here. It’s always home for me. Always going to have a special place in my heart, but it’s just another game to me right now.”

[Gordon Hayward on ‘Indy West’ success with George Hill, and visiting Hinkle]

Many changes have been made to the Pacers’ roster over the last few years. Paul George is the only player left from their Eastern Conference Finals appearances against Miami. Hill and George were teammates for teammates for five seasons, neighbors on Geist, and still today remain close friends.

“We still talk once or twice a week,” said Hill, who has been wearing George’s new signature shoe (PG 1). “He’s still a good friend of mine. I don’t think the relationships that you’ve made with your teammates go anywhere.”

[Hill carries permanent reminders of Indy wherever he goes]

Hill has missed 27 games due to injury, most notably a sprained left big toe. He has been able to play his game and play off of Hayward, much like he did George. The Jazz are 14-1 this season when he scores 20 or more points.

He’s averaging a career high 17.2 points, 4.1 assists, and 3.4 rebounds per game.

This is an important season for him because he’s in a contract year. It’s the final year of a five-year, $40 million deal he signed with the Pacers in 2012.

Hill will get paid, and may get a max deal near $100 million. At 30, this would surely be Hill’s last big contract, in addition to being his largest.

“A little bit,” Hill said in response to whether he’s looking forward to the free-agent process. “It’s nervous at the same time. It’s a great opportunity for me and my family.”

If Hayward, who is also a free agent, stays in Utah, they expect Hill to as well. If not, George almost certainly would go elsewhere. Paul George wants to see his friend be happy, and get paid.

“I’ve been motivating him, really, to continue on playing the way he has been playing. I’d love to see him get paid,” Paul George said in January.

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