This summer, the San Antonio Spurs sent George Hill to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for Kawhi Leonard, Davis Bertans and Erazem Lorbek.
At the time, Hill, a combo guard who had become one of the most popular Spurs, both to his coach and the team’s fans, envisioned a long career in San Antonio, but understood that the move was all business.
Meanwhile, Leonard, accepted the news with a shoulder shrug, determined to stay in a moment he described as “living the dream.”
Tonight, the player Gregg Popovich called “Indiana George” returns tonight to AT&T Center, to face his former team, with a familiar role of providing a spark off the bench.
No Spur misses Hill more than DeJuan Blair, the starting center who considers George his best friend.
“I was in a cab in New York City when I heard the news,” Blair said. “I was devastated. I said a few curse words.”
In 35 games this season, Hill is averaging 9.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists on 46.2 percent shooting from the field, including 40.4 percent from beyond the arc, for a Pacers team with the fourth-best record (30-20) in the Eastern Conference.
On the other hand, the small forward out of San Diego State, has been a major part of San Antonio's success. In his rookie season, Leonard is averaging 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds while converting 49.7 percent of his shots from the floor.
In the last five games, Leonard has averaged 12.8 points and 8.2 rebounds, despite recent additions of forwards Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw.
This might just be a regular season game, but it will definitely be an emotional one for both Hill and the Spurs.
Whatever happens tonight, at least the Spurs knew they did the right thing.
We’re thrilled for him,” Popovich said referring to Hill. "I want nothing but for him to be successful, and our players want the same for him, and he has been".
The Spurs coach can say the same to the main piece of the package that sent Hill to Indiana, that is Leonard.