After the Pacers’ loss to the Lakers tonight, Indiana point guard George Hill was emotional. Angry, even. Part of it was the 99-93 loss that saw the home team crumple in the 4th quarter. But more than anything, George Hill was unhappy with the fans. On a night where the Pacers were playing one of their biggest games of the year (it seems like almost every game is becoming that at this point in the season), Indiana fans were drowned out by the cheers of their Laker counterparts. If you ask Hill, it wasn’t even close (via Scott Agness):
“It sucks, man. 70-30 out there,” in regards to the amount of Lakers fans in the building compared to those supporting the Pacers.
Hill would go on to say more, but, as is with most angry player musings, the interview isn’t where this conversation began:
As the media funneled into the Pacers’ locker room after their 99-93 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, George Hill sat across from his locker, in the corner talking with Roy Hibbert.
He was pointedly talking loud enough about his disappointment in the fans for all to hear. As the media first surrounded David West two lockers down, Roy Hibbert quickly spoke up. He wanted to keeps Hill’s comments off the record, but Hill didn’t mind.
“Somebody needs to say it,” he said passionately. “I’ll say it.”
So minutes later, he did.
Now, in my mind it’s alright if George Hill wants to talk with his teammates in how disappointed with the crowd he was. But carrying that over to an official conversation with a reporter is close to crossing a blurry line. Word choice, specifically, had better be impeccable if a player is going to do so in the clearly emotional state that. For George Hill, it was not. In repeating himself multiple times (as you can read in the full article linked above) Hill allows his over-emotional state to take the lead, as his comments begin to read like a rant. In particular, the Indiana point guard crosses the line with this statement:
But, now we see how it is and we have to move forward, don’t worry, and stay focused on what’s in this locker room.
This is a damning sentence. I get Hill’s frustration, but this line reads as: “Forget the fans. They don’t care. We’re going to worry about us, and nothing else.” To go from asking for, counting on, even relying on fan support to that doesn’t make much sense.
It’s clear now that Hill should have taken a step back to collect himself and then expressed his later on, after giving him time to gain some clarity and perspective. Asking the fans to come out and support, rather than scolding them for not doing so, might have been a good start. I don’t mean to say that Hill’s claims or untrue or that his expectations too high. He’s not wrong in either case.
But presentation is important. Ripping all fans, including those who WERE at the game and not able to overcome the Laker majority late in the game, is kind of harsh. Further, not everyone can afford tickets to the game, ESPECIALLY this one, often sold only in special packages or at a higher rate due to the popularity of the visiting team. Part of the fan differential comes from team ownership capitalizing on a rare sellout by charging more. Lakers fans, who only get one chance to see their team all year, are more likely to shell out the extra dough. Especially since they didn’t get to see them last year in the lockout-shortened season.
But my last point here, is going to be seconding George Hill’s sentiments. While I’ve often tuned into Pacer games and thought there were some really great, loud fans, I’ve also noticed that there a lot of empty seats. There’s no reason that such a good team should have such horrible fan attendance. Even with the 7th-smallest market, Indiana shouldn’t be 5th lowest in total attendance or 10th lowest by percentage. I don’t know if it’s a marketing problem, or lack of passionate fans, or even race (as some have suggested). But I know that it’s unacceptable. I hope the fans can look at Hill’s comments with more perspective than he made them with. He came from a good place in just wanting the fan base to grow and be supportive. His frustration that it hasn’t isn’t surprising.
This tweet from my timeline helped encourage me that it might be possible:
If Z-Bo speaking up can help inspire Grizzlies fans to come out, maybe George Hill, even in his rage, can do the same. Pacers could definitely use some better home-cooking once the playoffs get here because 82% full isn’t going to cut it.