Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Express News: Spurs' Hill experience low after starting high

NBA: Spurs' Hill experience low after starting high

Web Posted: 07/16/2008 12:58 AM CDT

Mike Monroe
San Antonio Express-News

LAS VEGAS — The day after Spurs coaches gave first-round draft pick George Hill an A-plus for his defense on O.J. Mayo, Hill put a few substandard marks in his report card in the Spurs’ second game of the Las Vegas Summer League.

Hill did a pretty fair impression of Spurs defensive ace Bruce Bowen in Monday’s summer league opener against the Grizzlies. In his first game with the silver and black, Hill forced Mayo, the Memphis Grizzlies’ No. 3 overall pick of the 2008 draft, into tough shots that translated into 5-for-17 shooting and limited him to six free throws.

“He did just what we wanted him to do: made (Mayo) take tough shots and kept him off the free throw line,” said Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer, in charge of the summer league squad. “It was an A-plus.”

Tuesday’s game against a New Orleans Hornets summer squad that included Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong, two members of last season’s Hornets team that won 56 games, proved that Hill still has a lot of work to do to make the transition from being a scoring guard for IUPUI to being primarily a point guard in the NBA.

Hill took 10 shots in a 76-68 loss Tuesday night and missed all 10. He grabbed seven rebounds and had four assists, but committed five turnovers.

“If we’re true to our colors, at the end of the day, it’s defense that we think is most important,” Budenholzer said. “So the fact he has a lot of defensive skill is going to give him a lot of rope.

“That’s what summer league is for. You have to learn from games like he had tonight. Not every pro has been good in every summer league game he’s played, so this is a great chance for him to learn.”

Hill understands the challenge he faces with a major upgrade in the level of competition, compounded by the transition to point guard, one of the toughest positions to learn.

“Coming from a mid-major (college), and not really playing a lot of point guard, it’s going to be a learning experience,” Hill said. “My job in summer league was to come here and feel the vibe of the point guard position and learn from my mistakes.”

There were lessons aplenty in Tuesday’s game, which was choppy for both teams, start to finish.

“The toughest part is just when to pass and when to score, because I was mostly a scorer in college,” he said. “Sometimes I try to get into the defense, rather than let the game come to me. It’s going to be a learning point, and I’m ready to step up and take that challenge.”

For now, Hill is grateful that he had a chance to prove his defensive prowess to the Spurs coaches, including head coach Gregg Popovich, observing from the stands at summer league.

“You always accept that defensive challenge,” he said. “When Coach puts you on a great player like O.J. Mayo, it’s a chance to see where you are defensively.”

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