Given his employment as point guard for the still-unbeaten Indiana Pacers, George Hill knows all about feeding the post, chewing up the clock and occasionally eating some opponent’s lunch out there.
The culinary metaphors have zero bearing, however, on what Hill encountered on a recent offseason trip to Haiti. Keep in mind, the pride of Broad Ripple High and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis grew up in a have-not neighborhood and knew rough times. But hungry is hungry and starving is starving.
“The experience I had over in Haiti, you can see that starvation is their biggest [problem],” the Pacers guard said. “That and fighting disease. You see kids who are maybe four or five years old, their hair is red – that’s normally black hair, that’s from being malnourished. You can tell that the [hardship] is at another level over there.”
Eye opening as it was, that experience prompted Hill to commit to making annual trips to Haiti to distribute food to villages in need. It’s there in his work with more than 400 Pacers employees and partners in the Kids Against Hunger program, packing and distributing nearly 60,000 meals for food banks in Indianapolis and elsewhere.
And it earned him the Kia Community Assist Award for October, presented to an NBA player each month for their give-back efforts. The 27-year-old Hill was to be honored Friday in a pregame ceremony at Indiana’s Bankers Life Fieldhouse with the David Robinson Plaque and a donation of $10,000 on Hill’s behalf, split between Kids Against Hunger and Wish For Our Heroes (an organization that helps military families in times of hardship).
“I just try to do the best I can to give back and give hope, and put a little food in their bodies that will last them,” Hill told NBA.com in a phone interview Friday. “It was a great honor to be part of it. I’m looking forward to getting back to it next year and doing what I can do.”
These are heady times for Hill in his day job – er, evening job – with Indiana off to an 8-0 start heading into Friday’s game against Milwaukee (7 p.m. ET, League Pass). The Pacers are back in their familiar spot from last season as the league’s top-ranked defense, only stingier; their 92.3 defensive rating is 7.5 points better than in 2012-13.
They’re a little different team now, with Paul George emerging as a Most Valuable Player candidate and Lance Stephenson building an early case for Most Improved. Hill, meanwhile, is essentially the same player he’s been, his per-36 minutes stats (15.2 points, 3.9 assists) nearly unchanged, though he’s playing less thanks to C.J. Watson as a more reliable backup so far than D.J. Augustin.
But with an early-season sore hip healed now, Hill gives the Pacers a low-profile orderliness on the court that invites critics when he sometimes doesn’t seem to do enough. For instance, they were out in force after Game 5 of the East finals last spring, blasting Hill for his 1-point, 0-for-4 performance in an 11-point defeat, after games of 18, 19 and 19 points. In Game 6, Hill responded with 16 points, six assists and a plus-14 to help push Miami to the max.
Not that excitable on the floor and way less so off it, Hill seemed fine with the results then. And especially now.
“Our offense is not predicated on a dominant point guard,” he said. “We have scorers at all five positions. We have people who can create their own shots and who can guard their own position.
“So I don’t think we’re a traditionally point-guard, pick-and-roll, have-to-have-the-ball-in-my-hands-20-seconds-out-of-every-24 seconds-shot-clock team. We can spread the ball out and everyone knows how to make plays. We’re a very unselfish team.”
Hard to argue with a man who knows unselfish like this guy.