Take nothing for granted
After latest layoff, Hill ready for his return
Posted: March 6, 2004
Milwaukee Bucks coach Terry Porter, like probably everyone else involved in the National Basketball Association, can only wonder "what if" when it comes to Grant Hill and the Orlando Magic.
As in, "What if the Magic's master plan had panned out and Hill had teamed up with Tracy McGrady over the past couple seasons?"
"If he would have stayed healthy, and he could have helped them from Day 1 when he first came here, that team would have been something special," said Porter.
But as we all know by now, that magical dream has become a nightmare as Hill has been able to play in just 47 games since he signed a much-heralded, seven-year, $92.9 million free-agent contract in the summer of 2000.
The Magic signed McGrady to a similar deal that summer in what was viewed at the time as a major free-agent coup.
The Magic sent Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins to Detroit in the sign-and-trade deal that brought Hill to Orlando.
But as it turns out, the Magic, who own the worst record in the league this season, invested in some damaged goods in Hill, who has undergone four ankle surgeries. McGrady has had to go it alone for the most part and Hill has yet to play a game this season for the Magic but he is hoping that changes soon.
Hill was off to Duke University, his alma mater, this weekend to consult with his doctor there, and to take in a basketball game. His hope was to get the green light to begin practicing with the team this week. He has yet to take part in a full practice this season and he has been working out on his own and playing one-on-one with other Magic players.
Hill has a home game against Atlanta on April 2 penciled in as what he hopes will be his first game since Jan. 18, 2003.
"I haven't focused too much on the past - good or bad," Hill told Florida Today recently. "Because I'm just pressing on. Call me crazy, but I still feel I've got some good ball left in me. It's just a fractured bone and not a joint or something that's life threatening. If the bone can heal and just stay healed, then I'm a 31-year-old who hasn't played a lot in the past four years. I can still be productive."
Team officials are cautious, however.
It's not as if a comeback by Hill can salvage this ghastly season in central Florida. And, if Hill came back too soon and injured the ankle again, he would surely be done for good this time. Even if Hill does return, though, he will be allowed to play in only a maximum of nine games because of insurance and salary-cap reasons.
"Any minutes now are better than the alternative," said Hill.
Porter remembers playing against Hill in his heyday in Detroit.
"He was a great player," said Porter. "He could do a lot of things. His ability to drive and get by people was his strong point. Get in the open floor, get calls. . . .
"I wish him the best. It's tragic the way his career has gone. At some point you have to wonder how he's going to respond after surgery after surgery after surgery."
The answer to that may come soon.
Drive the bus, too?
Detroit coach Larry Brown and forward Tayshaun Prince went at it last week to the point where Prince was nearly demoted. Brown had been unhappy with Prince's play and said he was going to start treating Prince like a rookie rather than a veteran and was going to make Prince ride on the first team bus to games with the young players.
According to courtside observers, Brown yelled at Prince on the bench during a loss to Utah, telling him to start demanding the ball more. Prince yelled back that it wasn't his job to tell veterans to pass him the ball. Brown wanted to bench Prince but was unable to since Richard Hamilton was sidelined with a broken nose.
He was struggling
There were a few anxious moments in the Indiana Pacers' locker room in Oakland last week when Golden State Warriors forward Cliff Robinson stopped in to pay a visit after the game.
The Pacers' Jermaine O'Neal had just had a difficult game against his former Portland teammates, scoring just 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting and grabbing just seven rebounds.
Plus, Robinson and O'Neal were both ejected in the final minutes after two separate incidents on each end of the court. The two then engaged in a shouting match and had to be restrained by several teammates and coaches all the way off the court as they continued to yell at each other.
Love, however, was all around when O'Neal spotted Robinson and the two embraced.
"I have a lot of respect for Cliff," O'Neal told reporters at the game. "He's one of the guys who helped me get to where I am now."
Bad crab legs?
So much for trying to be a gracious host.
Orlando's Juwan Howard and Boston's Mark Blount went out for dinner together the night before last week's game between the Magic and Celtics in Boston.
The next night, Blount went out and scored 28 points and grabbed 21 rebounds, both career highs, to lead the Celtics to a lopsided victory. Howard did not play, claiming he got food poisoning from the steak he ate while out with Blount.
Wonder who picked up the tab on that one.
Riding a bad wheel
The New Jersey Nets weren't about to rush guard Jason Kidd back into the lineup last week until he was certain that his bruised left knee had healed completely. Not with the Nets holding a runaway lead in the Atlantic Division.
"We think we've secured - if we can end the season on the right note - having second place in the opening round," Kidd told reporters before a game in Denver last week. "Our goal is to get better, not to go in lackadaisical, and I want to be healthy going into the playoffs."
Bay area bombers
Golden State's Mike Dunleavy apparently exchanged heated words with coach Bill Musselman at a shoot-around prior to last week's game against Indiana.
According to what a player told the Contra Costa Times, Musselman was showing players how they were going to defend a certain play against the Pacers and he emphasized how Dunleavy had gotten beat on the play several times when the teams played the week before in Indianapolis.
Dunleavy said he only got beat once and that the game tape would back him up. Musselman went on to say what a poor defender Dunleavy was in general. Dunleavy said he felt the same way about his coaching. Three other players and two members of the team's basketball operations staff confirmed the incident.
Musselman and Dunleavy both denied it later.
A silver lining
Denver general manager Kiki Vandeweghe hopes something good will come out of the Nuggets' controversial loss to the Los Angeles Lakers that led to a three-game suspension for referee Michael Henderson.
"The only thing that maybe is good that comes out of it is the fans know there are repercussions (to officials)," Vandeweghe told reporters in Denver. "The NBA takes great pains and does a review process. They do this type of review and everything happens behind closed doors a great deal.
"But every now and then, it's good that the public actually realizes there are repercussions for referees and they're held to very strict standards."
He's catching on
While Pistons' rookie Darko Milicic has a long ways to go on the basketball court, he's slowly adjusting to life in America.
Milicic recently got his first driver's license and followed that up with the purchase of a new Audi sedan. Milicic's English has improved greatly since draft day when former Nuggets guard Predrag Savovic served as his translator. Milicic doesn't need a translator anymore.
To ease his homesickness, the Pistons brought in assistant coach Igor Kokoskov, who is from Milicic's homeland and Kokoskov has given him only one piece of advice. That would be not to read the newspapers since there was so much hype over two other rookies - LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.
Land of Mutombo
Center Dikembe Mutombo appears to be out of the picture in New York where he has been placed on the injured list and Nazr Mohammed has been named the permanent starter.
The Knicks tried to let Mutombo down easily, though, as Isiah Thomas pulled him aside after a practice last week to tell him how much he meant to the team and coach Lenny Wilkens made a point to tell the entire team the same day how Mutombo had turned around a game against the Clippers.
But then David Falk, the agent for Mutombo, Tim Thomas and others, ripped into Isiah Thomas for his handling of Mutombo. Falk and Isiah have a history of bad blood and it only got worse when Isiah Thomas did not inform Falk about the Tim Thomas for Keith Van Horn trade with Milwaukee.
Ron Artest returned to the Indiana lineup last week a mere 12 days after having surgery on a thumb. . . .
The LeBron James bobble-heads that were part of a fan promotion in Cleveland last week were delivered to Gund Arena in an armored truck.
This week in the NBA
The Milwaukee Bucks, slugging it out with New Orleans for the No. 4 spot in the Eastern Conference, may start doing a bit of scoreboard watching to see what is going on with the Hornets. This week, New Orleans is at Toronto today, hosts Miami on Wednesday, is at Houston on Thursday and then hosts Golden State on Saturday. The Lakers go back on the road for games at Utah on Monday, Boston on Wednesday and then Minnesota on Friday. Detroit and Indiana wrap up their Western trips today with the Pistons at Seattle and Pacers at Denver.
Game of the week
The Dallas Mavericks get their first look at the Kings this season with Chris Webber on Thursday in Sacramento.
Bucks' week ahead
With so many road games this month, it's critical that the Bucks make the most of a four-game home stand that opens Wednesday against Atlanta and continues Friday against Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets. The Bucks put the lid on a four-game road trip Monday night in Philadelphia.
"That team has got a lot of miles on their legs with nothing to show for it."
-- Rick Fox, Lakers forward,on the Sacramento Kings
Player of the week
Kobe Bryant wasn't with the Lakers for their loss to lowly Atlanta last week because he was paying a visit to a court room in Colorado, but he rejoined the team Wednesday and provided the impetus for a down-to-the wire, 96-93 victory in Houston. Bryant finished with 18 points, eight rebounds, and a season-high 13 assists and drained a cold-blooded jumper over Yao Ming that proved to be the game winner. "That's my time right there," Bryant told reporters after the game. "The team relies on me to make those kind of shots and I love making those type of shots." Bryant has been playing his best basketball of the season since the all-star break. The Lakers have won eight of nine games in which Bryant has played since the break and he averaged 28.7 points, 8.8 assists and 8.0 rebounds in those games.
In last week's game against Boston, Orlando's Tracy McGrady passed Shaquille O'Neal (8,019 points) as the Magic's second-leading all-time scorer. O'Neal tallied his total in 295 games while McGrady was playing in his 286th game with the team when he passed O'Neal. Nick Anderson is the Magic's all-time leading scorer with 10,650 points.
When the Pacers won in Golden State last week, they became first Eastern team to win 20 games against the West.
Reggie Miller's appearance against Utah on Friday was the 1,304th of his career and moved him past Elvin Hayes into the No. 8 spot on the all-time list.
Prior to the all-star break, the Knicks were giving up 92.6 points per game. Since the all-star weekend trade that brought in Tim Thomas and Nazr Mohammed, they are yielding 99.3 points.
1. Minnesota Timberwolves 1
Hudson provides lift off bench.
2. Sacramento Kings 2
Webber fits in quite nicely.
3. Indiana Pacers 3
Artest makes a quick recovery.
4. San Antonio Spurs 4
Still doing OK without Duncan.
5. Dallas Mavericks 7
Finley showing new confidence.
6. Los Angeles Lakers 6
Kobe comes through in Houston.
7. Memphis Grizzlies 9
Bonzi shines in Portland return.
8. New Jersey Nets 5
Injury makes Kidd a spectator.
9. Detroit Pistons 11
Big Ben rules the boards.
10. Houston Rockets 8
Yao wins battle, loses war.
11. New Orleans Hornets 12
Wesley's return a big boost.
12. Milwaukee Bucks 13
Jones runs offense, drops dimes.
13. Denver Nuggets 10
Suddenly feeling the pressure.
14. Utah Jazz 18
Last playoff berth within reach.
15. Portland Trail Blazers 14
Shareef adjusts to reserve role.
16. Miami Heat 15
Sometimes the Butlers do it.
17. Cleveland Cavaliers 23
LeBron bobblehead a hot item.
18. New York Knicks 17
Marbury's 36 too much for 76ers.
19. Los Angeles Clippers 19
Falling just short in Sacramento.
20. Seattle SuperSonics 21
Close losses no consolation.
21. Golden State Warriors 16
Dunleavy grabs 20 boards in defeat.
22. Boston Celtics 25
Battling for final Eastern berth.
23. Toronto Raptors 22
Carter tries to stem team's slide.
24. Philadelphia 76ers 20
Iverson loses radar at the Garden.
25. Washington Wizards 26
Arenas shows signs of life.
26. Atlanta Hawks 24
Crawford, Przybilla are starters.
27. Phoenix Suns 27
Stoudemire blows up Nets.
28. Chicago Bulls 28
Unhappy Fizer put on injured list.
29. Orlando Magic 29
Scoring title all McGrady has left.
From the March 7, 2004 editions of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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