The NBA season is roughly a month, and old already we’ve seen some surprises. Would you have guessed that the Golden State Warriors would beat the Dallas Mavericks with only six players in uniform? Me neither, but that’s just what they did last night in Dallas, with Monta Ellis led the Warriors with 37 points as three players for Golden State logged a full 48 minutes of game time as assistant coach Keith Smart guided the effort from the Warriors because head coach Don Nelson was dealing with pneumonia.
Tonight the schedule makers have the Warriors in San Antonio to do business with the Spurs. San Antonio is in third place in the Southwest division at 6-6 and Golden State is in fifth place in the Pacific division with a record of 5-8.
Another surprise this season has to be the maturing play of the Spurs’ second year guard George Hill. Hill is in his second year in the NBA from tiny Indiana University-Purdue University of Indianapolis, or IUPUI. Hill’s teammates have applied the phonetic pronunciation of Oowhey-poowey to Hill as a nickname, taken from his Alma Mater. Here’s some NBA trivia for you: who is the only player in NBA history from IUPUI? That’s right, George Hill.
Hill possesses a court savvy and a tenacious defensive style that has endeared him to Spurs head coach Gregg Poppovich so much that he has already been quoted this season as referring to Hill as his “favorite player”, something Pop rarely, if ever, does.
Last season, as a rookie, Hill averaged 5.7 points and 1.8 assists per game while appearing in 77 total games. This season, albeit 12 games old, has Hill averaging 12.5 points and 2.2 assists, after appearing in all twelve games, and starting 4 in place of starter Tony Parker, who was out with an ankle injury.
Hill is only 6-2 and 180 pounds, but his long arms give him length enough to guard players much taller than him, and do it effectively, to the tune of 1.0 steals per game, which, just like points and assists, is up from the 0.6 mark he had in his rookie season.
Not only can Hill play the point, but he can play from the 2 spot, too. Poppovich has used the backcourt tandem of Parker and Hill together this season some too, since Hill’s 3 point % is up from last season as well, from 32.9% to 43.3%.
So, look for the Spurs to be competitive from the backcourt at least this season, as long as second year man George Hill stays healthy, and dare I say this, could he be in running for the Sixth Man of the Year award? Stranger things have happened. After all, this season, at least so far, has had lots of surprises. If you ask Poppovich and Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford, they’ll probably tell you that the play of a little known second year guard from a school in Indiana with a funny sounding name is one pleasant surprise.