INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The Indiana Pacers have traded first-round pick Kawhi Leonard of San Diego State to the San Antonio Spurs for hometown hero George Hill.
Hill starred at IUPUI, then went to the Spurs in the first round of the 2008 draft. He played three years with the Spurs and averaged 11.6 points and 2.5 assists last season.
The Indianapolis native expressed his feelings on Twitter: "Very emotional moment right now!!! But just want to Thank Everyone for all the Support. SA has been great to me and will never forget it!!"
His future backcourt partner, Darren Collison, liked the trade.
"Great move for the team," he said.
Indiana also sent its No. 42 pick, Davis Bertans, and Erazem Lorbek, its second-round pick in 2005, to the Spurs in the deal.
Team president Larry Bird said the team's interest in Hill is nothing new.
"We talked to them about George the last couple years," Bird said. "We've been talking to them the last couple weeks and we weren't really sure whether there would be any interest or not."
The Pacers were one of the league's youngest teams last season, and they remained young while adding experience with the 25-year-old Hill. The Pacers made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2006, and they are ready to take another step.
"We got a lot of young guys, and now it's time to fill in the holes," Bird said. "He's an experienced player, he's been to the playoffs. He's a big guard. We like him because we know he's got length and can defend."
IUPUI coach Todd Howard, who helped recruit Hill, is excited. Hill was the first IUPUI player ever drafted, and the school retired his jersey in 2010.
"I think it's great for the Pacers, great for George and ultimately great for IUPUI," Howard said. "He's been an ambassador for our program, and it's great that he's going to have the opportunity to continue to showcase his skills in his hometown. George has been part of a winner in one of the league's premier organizations and will bring that winning experience to the Pacers."
The fact that Hill is from Indianapolis is just a bonus.
"It always helps, but George Hill is a good NBA player first of all, and it helps that he's from here," Bird said. "But we didn't trade for him because he's from Indianapolis. We traded for him because he's a good player."
In Leonard, the Pacers would have had a 6-foot-7 forward who averaged 15.5 points and 10.6 rebounds last season. He was a second-team All-American who helped the Aztecs win a school-record 34 games.
Bird had talked up scoring guards heading into the draft, saying he was impressed with BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Providence's Marshon Brooks. Fredette was gone, but Brooks was available at No. 15.
Indiana waited, then made the move and got its scoring guard — and one who has played with the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
Hill joins a team on the rise. Danny Granger, at age 28, is the elder statesman among the starters. Center Roy Hibbert just finished his third year, Collison and power forward Tyler Hansbrough were second-year players, and Paul George was a rookie. All five are under contract for next season.
Of those starters, the Pacers have acquired Hibbert, Hansbrough and George in the first round on draft day within the past three years. Hibbert was acquired in a trade in 2008, Hansbrough was picked in 2009 and George was selected last year.
Though the Pacers are adding players, they have yet to name a head coach. Interim coach Frank Vogel took over for Jim O'Brien at the middle of last season, and the 38-year-old guided the team to a 20-18 record and a spot in the postseason. The team got off to a 7-3 start under him before the All-Star break, hit a skid, then closed the regular season strong to reach the playoffs.
Vogel has been named the frontrunner for the head coaching position, and he was involved in draft preparation. The team also has talked to former Pacers assistant Brian Shaw about the vacancies on the staff.