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Utah Jazz: George Hill's first season in Utah 'didn't end the way I'd like'

Published May 10, 2017 4:30 pm

Jazz • Point guard missed the last three games of the playoffs.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It was an unceremonious finish to something that had started so terrifically.

George Hill, the Western Conference's player of the week at the beginning of his run with the Utah Jazz, never had to change out of his suit, watching his team's playoff finale from a seat behind the bench, his left big toe too sore to allow him to play.

The Jazz have wrapped up their best campaign in seven years. They now face a pivotal offseason. And Hill will be a central figure in the latter, as he was in the former.



Was Monday night the end?

Or was it a beginning?

"It didn't end the way I'd like it," the point guard said Tuesday morning as players cleaned out their lockers, completed their exit interviews and parted ways for the summer. "… Hopefully we can continue to build in the future here and have fun doing it."

Hill set a career high in scoring during his first season with the Jazz, but he also flirted with a career low in games played as he battled injury through Utah's 51-win season.

When healthy, Hill was a near perfect fit for a team that had been desperately searching for steady point guard play in recent years. But now he enters free agency as a 31-year-old who played in only 49 regular-season games and missed the final three games of the playoffs. He will command a hefty raise in a market thin on elite point guards. And the Jazz, who have several key questions to address this summer, will have to weigh the risk and reward of trying to keep Hill in Salt Lake City.

Hill doesn't think his toe will be a long-term issue. He called the injury a "freak thing," a case of turf toe from accidentally kicking the back of someone's foot in November. The point guard said he visited with about four specialists throughout the season and that none suggested he would need surgery.

"Most of it was they were trying to recommend that I would sit out a lot longer earlier in the season because they thought it would come back if I didn't let it rest right," Hill said. "But I'm hardheaded and wanted to play and took that chance."

The injury nagged at Hill throughout the season, clearly hampering his production on offense and his effectiveness on the defensive end of the floor. Hill tweaked the injury on a baseline drive during Game 7 of the Jazz's first-round series with the Clippers. He iced and played in the first game of the second round.

"Those injuries take time to heal," Hill said. "Me just trying to push through it all season, getting through it, playing through it, took a toll on it."

Hill frustrated fans by sitting out the final three games of the playoffs. The guard said he was frustrated with how things ended, too.

"If anyone knows me, I'm super competitive," he said. "I want to play. I want to win at all costs. So sitting out these last couple games really took a toll on me, really frustrating."

Hill said it was a mutual decision to sit out after speaking with the coaching staff.

"I really wanted to be out there with the guys," he said. "I knew I would probably hurt them more than help them. I can't be selfish in my own way. … Me and the coach talked about it, and it was best that I didn't go out there."

Hill said he believes the Jazz have created a "heck of a bond" over the course of the season and the soon-to-be free agent would be open to a return to Utah.

"I think team is a big thing," he said about his priorities in free agency. "I love to win. I love good teammates, solid locker room guys. All of those things will be into play. Just finding what's the best locker room for me to be in, where can I help the most, the teammates that they've got, what's already there, and our chances of winning.

"The group that I have here," he added, "is more than enough."

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk —

George Hill

Position • Point guard

Average minutes • 35.1

Average points • 15.6

Average assists • 3.6

Average rebounds • 4.1

 

 

 

 

 

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