George Hill withheld plans to sit out from Bucks at first: 'Didn't want to put that pressure on my teammates'

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Milwaukee Bucks guard George Hill said the team's decision to not play Wednesday's playoff game against the Orlando Magic "woke the world up" to the changes that he and the rest of the NBA players believe need to be made.

"What we did was nothing to get notoriety for," Hill said after scoring 11 points to help Milwaukee close out its series with Orlando on Saturday afternoon. "It was nothing that we were doing for a publicity stunt. It's something that we did from our heart. We were tired of different things going on in this world. We wanted action; we wanted things to be held accountable. And we decided to do this as a team.

"Before doing it, we said, 'We have to live with the consequences, good or bad.' And every guy stood there and stood by my side ... But to see how it trickled down into every sport, it really woke the world up and let them know that we're serious. We need change. We need for love in the world, and try to make it a better place."

While the Bucks eventually decided to make a historic statement by choosing not to play against Orlando on Wednesday afternoon, that was not how Hill intended the day to play out when he woke up that morning. Instead, he simply decided that, in the wake of the police shooting of 29-year-old Jacob Blake Sunday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, a city about 40 miles south of Milwaukee -- as well as the deaths of two protesters there Tuesday -- he wouldn't be able to play.

Hill said that, outside of a conversation with Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer before the game, no one on his team was aware of what he was going to do until they found out he was inactive about 20 minutes before tipoff.

"I didn't want to put that pressure on my teammates," Hill said. "I didn't want them to have to make that decision unless they wanted to. So as a teammate, I didn't take it to them. That may be a little bit my fault on my part to not take it to them. But I didn't want them to make a decision out of pressure, and because we have a good relationship.

"So before the game, guys were trying to figure out why I wasn't playing. And we spoke about it. Sterling [Brown] spoke about it and wanted to stay in with us. And it was a trickle effect; every guy in our locker room stood by my side and said, 'If my brother isn't playing, then we aren't playing.' And we made that decision.

"And it was nothing that was premeditated. It was nothing that, like I said, we're doing for clout or for anything like that. It was just on our hearts and in our guts, and we followed it. And you have to tip your hat to every one of these guys; and like I told them today, 'Let's build from it. Let's continue to make change. Let's continue to talk about it. Let's continue to do things that we can do that's quick in our city of Milwaukee, and just embrace it.'"

When the team learned of Hill's decision, Brown -- who was Tasered by Milwaukee police in 2018 following a parking violation, and has a civil rights case pending against the city of Milwaukee alleging that police officers used excessive force -- chose to join him. After that, the rest of the Bucks agreed to do the same -- including the NBA's reigning MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo.

"George decided not to play the game and he didn't put pressure on none of his teammates," Antetokounmpo said Saturday. "Not me or the coach, but we decided to do the same thing. He came in the locker room to talk to us and I decided as a leader, as Giannis, and that's who I am and I was like, 'I'm not playing this game.' I didn't want to play this game, so of course I'm not playing this game, but I can't leave my teammate behind that felt a type of way about the situation that was going on and wasn't in the right space to play the game and I 100 percent fully supported him.

"Win or lose, I support them."

Hill spoke powerfully after Monday's Game 4 against the Magic, including saying "I don't think we ever should have come to this damn place," referring to the NBA bubble.

He admitted that, in the days since, he has considered leaving, and talked to assistant coaches Darvin Ham and Vin Baker about it, telling them he wanted to go home and go to Kenosha and try to help people there.

Ultimately, though, he said what compelled him to stay was his desire to stand by his teammates and play in the same way that they stood by him when he chose not to.

"That was what my heart was saying," Hill said. "[But] my teammates rallied around me all day yesterday. Just being there, talking to me, putting their arm around me, telling me how much I mean to them and how much they love me.

"I can't walk out on them. These guys mean a lot to me as individuals, as teammates and as people. And it was bigger than that."

Hill also apologized for his comment that the NBA never should have come to Orlando, saying it came from a place of "raw emotion" in the wake of Blake's shooting.

"Me saying that was kinda raw emotion," Hill said. "At that point, I just felt like us playing basketball and what's going on in the world, it was kinda getting lost in the shuffle. What we're down here for and to play for, what's going on in the world. At the end of the day, me being here wasn't going to stop what went on. So I want to take that back and apologize for that.

"But at the end of the day, you want change. You want things to be more civilized and people to have humanity. And like I said, that's what means more than basketball to me and to my teammates, and that's what we strive for."