Thursday, July 12, 2007

He planned those five ankle surgeries, hernia, and near-death experience

I'll preface this by saying I've always been a big Grant Hill fan. First, I got to enjoy his Duke days where he won 2 national titles, was on the passing end of the Laettner shot, and made one of the greatest alley oops I've ever seen (yet cannot for the life of me find a picture of on the internet) against Kansas in the NCAA tourney. Then, the Pistons drafted him shortly after my family moved to Michigan so I got to watch his NBA career and for a short while actually rooted for a team that once employed Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer (never move to Michigan, to pull a Shanoff: Snow. In. May...that didn't do it justice so one more: Frost. In. July.). I wasn't terribly disappointed when he was traded to the Magic because I'm not a huge NBA fan and the only reason I rooted for Detroit was Hill. Throw in the McGrady signing and I was even a bit excited about it because, like everyone in Orlando, I thought that a major title contender was built on those signings. But, as everyone knows that's not exactly what happened. Hill went through 5 ankle surgeries, one of which led to a staph infection in March '03 which nearly killed him (a fact not widely reported or known until the ESPN the Magazine article in 2005), and a sports hernia. All of this while being paid $93 million by the Magic to play in only 200 of 573 possible games and make only one All-Star team. Now that his contract is up, Hill is signing with the Suns for 2 seasons at less than $2 million a season. Suddenly, the guy who was a stand-up guy his whole career, one of the good guys who suffered through a horrible stretch of injuries, a person respected by everyone throughout the sports community has turned into the bad guy.
You're arm is in a sling??? Jesus,
this guy can't stay healthy.

Never mind the fact that no one forced Orlando to sign him to the contract initially when they knew he was coming off ankle surgery. Never mind that the big problem with the NBA is the guaranteed contract that prevents teams from cutting players should they be injured and miss nearly the entire first three seasons of a seven-year contract. Never mind that Hill never criticized the team, never gave up trying to come back, played well when he was able to, and was involved in numerous trade rumors as Orlando tried to unload the contract. No, because Hill spent most of his time in Orlando injured and trying to get on the court rather than trying to win championships then left for Phoenix when his contract was up, he's suddenly a bad, bad man.

Grant Hill stopped being Grant Hill last week.

When Hill agreed to sign a two-year deal as a free agent with the Phoenix Suns, all that he stood for, all that people believed about him as he gutted and rehabbed his way through a series of ankle surgeries that rendered him more of a patient than a player, pretty much ended.


Hill left Orlando as soon as he could, despite all that money and all that affection on all those days when he never slipped out of his street clothes.

He left Orlando for a reported two-year, $3.8 million contract with Phoenix, a relative pittance that he can afford to accept now because of the piles of money paid to him by the Magic. That's because his contract, like so many in the NBA, was fully guaranteed and, well, that's how business gets done in that man's league. Teams assume certain risks, players assume certain risks and that simply is that. You want loyalty, go buy a dog. And so on and so forth.

But Grant Hill was supposed to be above that sort of thing. Grant Hill was a guy who showed his peers the right way, a new way, a way of smiling back to the folks who were paying and cheering and rooting and even feeling his ankle pain. Grant Hill was the player who paid his agent by the hour, rather than a fat commission to peddle his skills to the highest bidder. Grant Hill was a family guy who kept his name off the police blotter. Grant Hill was ...

Wait, we almost forgot. Grant Hill stopped being Grant Hill last week.

If Joe Schmoe down at the factory/shop/office showed up for work only 200 times out of a possible 574 work days and never saw his paycheck docked a dime, odds are good that Schmoe would think twice about that before taking a job somewhere else. Especially since, finally, he was able to give his bosses what they'd been paying him for all along.

You're Killing Me Smalls.

What "ended when he signed with the Suns"??? That "new way, a way of smiling back to the folks who were paying and cheering and rooting and even feeling his ankle pain"? How often in the past 7 years have Magic fans bitched and moaned about the Hill signing? And how often did they try to trade Hill in the past 5 seasons? If Hill had been injured this past season you know he would have been a contract dump in some kind of trade. So he signed with a different team. He left Detroit as a free agent, why aren't people saying he betrayed Detroit? Most of all, what is he doing? Competing in sports...competing. Are we to assume he has no competitive fire? No desire to win a championship? Orlando had some things building there but then they went and did this as though they didn't learn anything from the Hill/T-mac contracts (and alienated Darko who wanted to stay there, was developing nicely, and worked well with Howard). If Hill had been drafted by Orlando, re-signed with the 7 year/$93 million deal and then left for Phoenix I might understand a little more. But the guy's time in Orlando has been hard on everyone there. Can't this also be seen as cutting your losses and just trying to move on? And that analogy he gives is God-awful. If Joe Schmoe nearly died while doing everything humanly possible to get back to his job, I think he'd reconsider staying for a lower salary. And I'm not saying it's about the money or the job itself but hey, you've been at a job where you've let down your co-workers through no fault of your own, cost the company a pretty penny, and nearly died...sound like a place you want to stay?

Really the bad thing with this article, besides the horrible analogy, is that the author claims Hill stopped being in Grant Hill left the Orlando Magic when he became a free agent, something he'd never done before...except the one other time he was a free agent.

But hey, this article really makes a case against Hill.

McGrady was signed in 2000 with Hill and the two were supposed to dominate the Eastern Conference. With Hill’s injuries and McGrady’s impatience (can’t really blame him) the franchise fell under again, and now both are gone, as Orlando is again trying to put the pieces together.

What Hill did the Magic franchise is inexcusable. Again, I fell (or felt) bad for him, with all the injuries ruining his career. However, he owed the team something… his presence. The Magic were hoping that Hill would re-sign for the veteran’s minimum and contribute to a Magic’s playoff run this season. Hill might not have even started, but his leadership would have been great for a fairly young team, and him coming off the bench would greatly help out the team.


The bottom line is, the Magic had one the leauge’s best players in Tracy McGrady, and he left because there was no one to help him. For seven years, Orlando fans have bathed in mediocrity, a large part because of Hill’s lack of playing and his enormous contract. He had the chance to stay in Orlando, make things right, and help out a young team for a low price. Instead, he is looking out for himself and himself only, something I never would have expected from the “classy” Hill.

So McGrady can demand a trade in the middle of his contract and bolt on a franchise a year after being the #8 seed. Can you really blame him? But Hill can do everything he can to get back on the court, play through his whole contract without ever getting down on himself or the team, get the team to an #8 seed, then sign elsewhere because his contract is up and his obligation to the Magic and their obligation to him is over and that is inexcusable. What???

You're fuckin' Killing Me Smalls.

Guy A demands trade from mediocre team, can ya blame him? Guy B leaves a mediocre team--that just made a very, very, very, very suspect sign-and-trade--via free agency (which is how your team got Guy B) , tar and feather the indignant bastard.

Grant Hill expressed his loyalty to the team and fans by doing everything to get back on the court. He didn't dog it in rehab. He didn't take his sweet ol' time because he knew he was getting paid either way. His health suffered for it and the Magic's bank account suffered for it. That's the way the NBA is set up. If Orlando fans want to bitch, they should bitch that the NBA isn't set up like the NFL where players can be cut and contracts aren't guaranteed. Hill could have moved on, so could the Magic, we'd be at this same point now only years earlier and with no bitching.

Let's just say Hill does resign for the same price as he did with Phoenix and he's injured the whole season. It just turns into a replay of 5 of the past 7 years and just leads to people bitching he can't stay healthy for one season. If he's injured in Phoenix then at least again, it's in a different place and he can retire and just accept that no matter what he does, he's not going to be able to compete on a basketball court.

Grant Hill was a great player. Injuries robbed him of his best years. He's now a good player who is an injury liability who left the city that felt the brunt of his injury woes to get a change of scenery and compete for a title. Why is that so wrong?

This guy got it right.

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