Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Express News: Hill holds own against Mayo in summer league debut


Spurs: Hill holds own against Mayo in summer league debut
By Mike Monroe

LAS VEGAS -- The plan was for George Hill, the guard from IUPUI the Spurs drafted with the 26th selection of the 2008 draft, to make his Las Vegas Summer League debut against the Memphis Grizzlies’ Mike Conley, one of the top picks in the 2007 draft.

When the Spurs’ coaches found out Conley wasn’t going to suit up for Memphis, they had a better idea.

"George Hill vs. O.J. Mayo,” assistant coach Mike Budenholzer said before the Spurs defeated the Grizzlies, 78-76, at Thomas and Mack Arena late Monday night.

“It’s definitely a good test for him right out of the gate. I don’t know that much about Mayo, but he was the third pick in the draft and George was the 26th pick. Hopefully, he’s got something he wants to show everybody. It always starts with defense for George.”

Mayo, the explosive guard from Southern California the Grizzlies acquired in a draft night trade involving draft rights to UCLA’s Kevin Love, is the sort of challenge the Spurs believe Hill will readily accept, even as a rookie.

Budenholzer had some advice for Hill before sending him out against Mayo, who had scored 56 points in his first three summer league games.

“This kid is looking to score,” Budenholzer told Hill, “so make him take tough shots, but don’t foul him.”

It was the same sort of admonition Gregg Popovich gave to Bruce Bowen when he sent him out to defend Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference final.

“That’s one of our big things,” Budenholzer said. “Make him take tough shots, but don’t put him on the free throw line. If we can get out of this game with O.J. Mayo shooting six, seven free throws – sort of like Kobe Bryant – then that’s probably a good sign for George.”

By game’s end, Mayo had scored 16 points, but taken only six free throws. Hill also had succeeded in making him take the sort of tough shots the Spurs are content to yield. Mayo made only five of 17 shots.

It was what Budenholzer and Popovich, watching from a seat eight rows up in the stands in a nearly deserted arena, had hoped to see from Hill at the defensive end.

Hill made two of nine shots and scored 14 points, but his defensive work on Mayo – he took two charges and helped in limiting Mayo to two points in the second and third quarters – was all that mattered in his first game in silver and black.

From what I saw online (available at NBA All-Access with free signup), it was a pretty good first game for the Spurs Summer League. After starting off lethargic and shooting horribly, the Spurs posted a comeback and were able to grit out a win.

Hill looked impressive in stretches but obviously is still very raw. His defense was more tenacious than I was expecting though, so if he can bring that kind of effort and find a groove on offense, he could become a very good player.

Ian Mahinmi had some nice moves down lot but overall, did not have a great game. That being considered, 18 and 8 on an off night might be a good sign if he is going to survive the rigors of the NBA.

James Gist was very energetic and eventually found his shooting stroke, but still seemed to be forcing the issue a bit. Malik Hairston had a poor showing and lacked aggressiveness.

If I had to base it off of this game alone, I would venture to say that only Hill and Mahinmi would have a chance to last on the Spurs roster, but there's still a lot of Summer League ball to be played.

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