The Pacers are in it to win it this year and don't have time for a rookie.
So Solomon Hill, the Pacers first-round draft pick, decided he would take the team up on their offer to assign him to Fort Wayne in the D-League to get some burn and focus on areas he needs to improve. With Danny Granger back in the playing rotation and Rasual Butler assuming the role of a steady veteran to fill in the gaps among the wing rotation, Hill's early-season minutes dried up, leaving the rook inactive in the past few games.
Orlando Johnson and Miles Plumlee both benefited from playing a few games with the Mad Ants last year and, as Scott Agness reports, Johnson is fully supporting Hill's assignment this time around with advice and encouragement.
"I just told him that there's a lot of guys up there that are going to try and go at you, try to say ‘Oh, he's down here because he wasn't good enough,'" Johnson said. "It's none of that. We know Solo's good enough, it's tough to get minutes right now. We got everybody healthy right now, everybody is playing well and we still need him to continue to develop.
"Solomon wants to play. He wants to keep getting better. It's hard because in practice, we don't get as many reps. ... Down in the D-League, he'll be able to get the reps, work on the things that Coach is asking him to work on and just continue to grow as a player."
In fact, Johnson and Chris Copeland are strongly considering making the two-hour drive to Fort Fun to support their teammate for the Mad Ants game on Monday night.
For Plumlee and Johnson, the Pacers shuttled the players back-and-forth a bit to take advantage of team practice time so I assume they will do the same with Hill. The Mad Ants play at home on Monday and Friday before hitting the road. The Pacers are busy with a couple of back-to-back games this week.
Hill certainly wasn't a detriment to winning while playing earlier in the season. In November, Hill played about 10 minutes per game, averaging 1.6 points and 2.1 rebounds. Those minutes were cut in half in December thanks to the return of Granger and addition of Rasual Butler to the playing rotation, Hill hasn't played in the last eight games.
The Pacers need to keep Hill sharp and ready to contribute because in the marathon NBA season the Blue and Gold can't expect to make it through unscathed without some minor injuries that will require sporadic playing time at some point for the rookie.