George Hill started last night’s game in place of Tony Parker, but was scoreless in 18 minutes of action with three rebounds and two turnovers. Not the kind of play Gregg Popovich liked to see out of the player widely deemed to be the Spurs’ x-factor, and Pop let him know it the best way a coach can: he benched him.
The subplot here is Hill’s bum ankle, which he injured in the last game of the regular season. Did Pop really sit Hill because he wanted to afford George some extra rest, and his poor play in the first half was just a convenient excuse to do so? Seems logical. Even with Pop’s surprising rotations in some games, benching Hill over being ineffective for a half doesn’t seem like a luxury he can really afford.
Even weirder, though: despite Pop’s ambiguous claim that he “didn’t like what he saw,” (in regard to Hill’s play or the injury?), Hill himself insisted that there was nothing wrong with his ankle. From Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas:
The benching left the second-year guard who has been so integral to the Spurs’ late-season resurgence perplexed.
“I was fine. I don’t know what to say. I was fine, though,” Hill
said. “I couldn’t say I just wasn’t aggressive enough. I don’t know
what it was, to be honest. The foot was fine.”
Caplan also raises the possibility of Tony Parker returning to his starting point guard role, which would seem likely. Parker was actually the Spurs’ seventh man last night, and though his performance was hardly revolutionary (18 points on 14 shots, four assists, two turnovers), he looked far better than Hill in almost every regard. Even in stepping away from the numbers, Hill had a hard time triggering the offense when he was given those responsibilities, while Parker was far superior (though again, not especially great) in that regard.