Posted March 16, 2013

Pacers’ George Hill rips lack of fan support during loss to Lakers

Ben Golliver, George Hill, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers
George Hill wasn't pleased with the fan support during a recent loss. (Ron Hoskins/Getty Images)

George Hill wasn’t pleased with the fan support during a recent loss. (Ron Hoskins/Getty Images)

By Ben Golliver

The Pacers lost to the Lakers 99-93 at home on Friday in a result that wasn’t entirely expected because of the teams’ records (Indiana is the No. 2 seed in the East; L.A. is clinging to the No. 8 seed in the West) and because of the status of Kobe Bryant (who went scoreless in 12 minutes because of a sprained ankle). The Lakers won in a plucky performance, telling reporters afterwards that they rallied behind Bryant’s attempt to play. Five Lakers scored in double figures to overcome the NBA’s No. 1 defense and hand the Pacers just their eighth home loss of the season.

George Hill, who saw his game-high 27 points squandered in the loss, took out his frustrations after on the lack of crowd support in Bankers Life Arena, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“It sucks. It was 70 (Lakers fans) – 30 (Pacers fans) out there. These are the same people that wants autographs after the game. We’re out there in the community. We’re doing our job, doing what we’re supposed to do on and off the court. Something has to change. I tip my hat to this team. We’ve been trouble free. Been out in the community shaking hands, we’re winning. It shouldn’t feel like an away game, especially with an important like this. Tonight, that’s what it felt like.”

“They always say your fans are your sixth man and you feed off that energy. Energy is down and we turn the ball over and we’re hearing cheers. We’re missing shots and we’re hearing cheers. That kind of brings your head down cause you know you’re at home. It shouldn’t be like that. Now we see how it is. We have to move forward, don’t worry about. Stay focus on what’s in this locker room and don’t worry about the rest.”

Hill tweeted a minor clarification Saturday that attempted to direct his comments towards the presence of Lakers fans as opposed to the absence of Pacers fans.

To clear the [air] I’m not talking about the fans that was there supporting us! I’m talking about the ones that were in purple! I Love INDIANA and that’s why I say something about it because I care an I want everyone in the community to be apart of this team #Togetherness

Despite playing in basketball-mad Indiana, where the high-school game is a treasure and the Indiana Hoosiers are as popular as ever, the Pacers rank  No. 26 in the NBA in home attendance, averaging less than 15,000 fans per game. That mark is actually up significantly from 2012: Indiana has been in the bottom-five of attendance every year since 2007, including multiple years in which they finished dead last.

Hill’s discussion of the team’s off-court behavior is a clear reference to an oft-cited explanation for the team’s weak attendance in the past. The Pacers’ role in the “Malice in the Palace” brawl, as well as a rash of off-court incidents—including Stephen Jackson firing a weapon outside a club, a bar fight involving Jamaal Tinsley and a shooting incident in which Tinsley was the target—have regularly been cited as a reason for the team’s poor standing in the attendance rankings.

Aside from an ugly 2010 arrest for guard Lance Stephenson in an incident of alleged domestic violence, the current Pacers are indeed toeing the line, as Hill suggests. They’ve also been winning games: The 2012 Pacers advanced out of the first round for the first time since 2005, and this year’s group has a solid shot at making an Eastern Conference finals run. While the Pacers have four players with All-Star credentials — Danny Granger, Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West — only George, 22, boasts true superstar potential, and he’s still in the midst of his breakout nationally.

It’s quite possible that, sometime soon, George’s two-way talent can fill Bankers Life Arena by itself. Until then, Pacers fans are treated to a defense-first, slow-down style (fifth-slowest pace in the league). Management installed a giant jumbotron screen to improve the crowd experience, but solid defensive principles don’t translate to HD quite as well as fun-and-gun transition offense, and Indiana has topped 100 points in just 13 of their 34 home games this season.

Then, of course, there are the Lakers, whose fans travel as well as any team’s in the league. The purple that so frustrated Hill is a regular sighting in every arena all season long. That’s true in Indiana — one of the NBA’s smaller markets — and everywhere else.

What to make of Hill’s comments given that context? Well, he’s not out of line in asking for more support, although he surely could have been more tactful.

Players, like all citizens, should be expected to be law-abiding; our society doesn’t give out ribbons to everyone who manages to remain out of jail. Community-service visits serve marketing and sales goals for the team just as they serve the hospitals and schools they reach. Autographs aren’t a particularly good bartering chip, either. Giving an autograph costs Hill nothing except a few moments of his time, and it’s usually his decision whether or not to give them, especially before and after a game. If he’s upset at Lakers fans living in Indiana wanting his autograph, his frustration is misdirected, as they are still the league’s customer, even if dressed in the opposite color. Surely he would agree that it’s better to be asked for autographs by Lakers fans than by no one at all; empty seats kill his personal earning power.

There’s no telling how long a reconciliation between a franchise that lost its way and its fans will take. Winning usually helps, and Indiana’s attendance figures year over year suggest that it has helped here. Although it’s easy to lose sight of this after a tough loss, Hill must keep in mind that the fans are the customer, and that a hard-handed stick treatment isn’t likely to be as successful as the rows of community-service carrots the franchise has tried to lay out. Because who, really, wants to be yelled at for how they choose to spend, or not spend, their money?

If Hill is passionate about increasing his team’s home turnout, I’m sure there are a number of bright minds in the Pacers’ business offices who have ideas on how he and his teammates could help make that a reality. If he’s just letting off steam, then he’s done more harm than good. And if he ever thinks Lakers fans are going away, he’s totally kidding himself.

19 comments
DebConsidine
DebConsidine

Having been to a few Pacers' games since the new jumbotron screen was installed, it has its pluses and minuses. While there it is easier to see the action on the court on the newly installed screen, it's annoying when it seems like every Pacers basket is replayed. I also want to see what's happening on the other end of the court, and it's awkeward to look under the screen to do that. There also are places in the upper seats where the view of the screen, especially the stats, are obstructed by scaffolding. Also, the last seat I had was on the narrow end of the court in the lower balcony, and the jumbotron screen is considerably narrower on those ends of the court as well. Even with my glasses on, I could not read the stats at the bottom at the screen, but I can read them even from the top row if I have a seat on a longer end of the court.

 

One of the suggestions I would make to get more people to Pacers' games is to start them at least an half-hour later. It would help fans who live a distance away be able to get to the games on a more regular basis. I think it might help people closer to the Indianapolis area as well. I've been on I-465, which circles Indy, between 5-6 p.m., and traffic can get incredibly slow at times. I'd also like to see an area of seating especially for singles. Single Pacers fans can meet one another that way, and it might help alleviate the problem of seating people going solo to games.

Thomaas
Thomaas

hill said he was talking about the "fans" in purple and gold..........NEWS FLSH MR HILL. - - - - - those aren't fans. shut up and play,bro

RAR
RAR

"Then, of course, there are the Lakers, whose fans travel as well as any team’s in the league."

 

This may be true, but the Lakers' "fans" who tend to dominate just about every arena in the country do not travel from LA. In fact, most of them have never even been to LA much less come from there. They're simply band wagoners. Just wait for the inevitable slide from greatness which, of course, we're now witnessing. A few years from now, Lakers fans-dominated arenas will be a thing of the past...

linuxaddict7
linuxaddict7

Hill is right, he should just leave Pacers go to places like boston, sacremanto. Those teams always have fans backing, win or loose.

DaveLee
DaveLee

How about the fact that the Lakers shot 21 more free throws (30-9) than the Pacers... AND THE PACERS WERE AT HOME!!! Tell me Stern doesn't have anything to do with that?!?!

riley8
riley8

Hey Hill...those Indiana Laker fans pay your salary also.  Shut up and play.  You aren't paid to run your mouth.

Kristian
Kristian

I don't think there's any real need to jump on Hill about it.  When he spoke he was still frustrated moments after the game.  We've all been there and done that.  Once he had a chance to chill a bit, he was able to come back with more less controversial words.  Still, he's not wrong. 

Eli....
Eli....

They'd a cheered for you had you whipped them. So, next time spank your opponents. Also, win a stinking title. LeBron proved that you can become a hero when you hoist the Larry O'Brien. Not that LBJ wasn't already great, but he did have a reputation of a choker, now he's king of the court...

jjohnv2004
jjohnv2004

I live in Memphis and I am a Memphis Grizzle fan and the Grizzly players used to make the same complaint about all the Lakers fans in attendance when Kobe and company came to town.   I don't think this criticism of fans is justified because since you pay to get in you can root for anyone you want to.  Players should also know that every fan that attend their  games aren't necessarily "their" fans.  Some fans are from the cities of the opposing team.  Since I've lived in L.A. for many years, and was a fan of the Magic led Lakers, I still root for the team.  Though I don't wear purple and gold  the Grizzlies are my first team, and the Lakers my secondary team.  Players shouldn't  let this type of respect for great teams or players get to them.  If your team is a perennial loser fans want to identify with winners.  Hill and the Pacers should just concentrate on beating the Lakers.  Since the Grizzlies pretty much beat the Lakers now at home the players now enjoy shutting up the Lakers fans in attendance.

splabman
splabman

Well, it's Indiana. Not exactly the cultural capital of North America. With the Hoosiers being brought back into national prominence, they are the top team in that state. This is the kind of place people think of when they use the phrase "fly-over state."

WilliamSmith1
WilliamSmith1

good for kobe his ankle is healing fast,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,players and coaches only

joefox
joefox

George has a point. Why wouldn't he be frustrated by playing a home game and there are more Laker fans than Pacer fans. Being a Laker fan is much like being a Yankee or Duke fan, you like a winner, way to represent, why not man up and root for your home team, the Pacer bandwagon will be filling up soon so you might want to get on it.

eddie577
eddie577

I think George Hill is great but he should have kept his mouth shut and tryto win the game next time.

rckymtn4
rckymtn4

 @RAR

 Yes, but it will be replaced by Nuggets-dominated arenas. ;)

RafiqSabir
RafiqSabir

 @DaveLee  - any team with Dwight shoots more free throws....he causes teams to go in the penalty early and he gets hack himself anytime he is close to the basket. Stern is an anti-Laker as you are. remember he cancelled the CP3 trade that would have had a team of Kobe, Dwight and CP3.

touseyd
touseyd

 @jjohnv2004 anybody with 2 favorite teams is not a real fan PERIOD Your opinion is not validated.

DaveLee
DaveLee

 @RafiqSabir True but that still does not explain why the pacers only shot 9 free throws since they are a very physical team as well?!

jjohnv2004
jjohnv2004

 @touseyd You are quite a fool dude.  What are you the Comment Police.  Get a life and then maybe you wouldn't have to put everything into sports.  Bet you never played a sport in your life.  Beside tiddlywinks that is.