Posted Mar 23 2011 1:04PM
When Phoenix's Grant Hill finally fouled out so very late Tuesday night, with 2:19 left in the third overtime of the Suns' eventual and exhausting 139-137 loss to the Lakers, a fellow's first thought was: Uh oh, the Suns are going to miss Hill's defense on Kobe Bryant in this game's fourth variation on crunch time.
And so it was. Bryant's 3-pointer just 10 seconds after Hill's departure boosted the Lakers to a 133-132 lead. He scored again with 14.2 seconds left to render moot Phoenix's mad notions of a fourth extra session. Hill could only watch.
But one's second thought on the Suns' veteran small forward was this: Think of all the games the Orlando Magic would have been happy to have had Grant Hill foul out, if only he'd been able to play in them at all.
Injuries limited Hill to 200 games played, 292 games missed in six seasons with Orlando. Then came his free-agency shift to Phoenix in 2007. And his discovery of, what, bionics ever since? Hill played in 70 games for the Suns in 2007-08 and now has missed just three in the three seasons since. He still is a valuable option offensively but, more than that, Hill has re-invented himself as a defensive stopper of sorts.
In fact, Hill -- at age 38 -- has a shot at his first all-Defense team honor from the league's coaches. The Suns' Alvin Gentry has deployed him on some of the game's most dangerous scorers and matched him up defensively with everyone from point guards (Tyreke Evans, Deron Williams) to power forwards (Dirk Nowitzki, Amar'e Stoudemire) and everyone in between (Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James).
The real kicker on Hill is that he leads the NBA in offensive fouls drawn (charges taken, moving screens collided with, etc.) with 55 -- and that was before Tuesday's XXXL game. Through 66 games, Hill was averaging 0.83 offensive fouls drawn a night or, more precisely, one for every 36.7 minutes played. So the guy who was so fragile, who couldn't have gotten on the floor even if he were allowed to play in a protective plastic bubble, now is taking some of the roughest punishment possible.
Generally, sacrificing one's body in the pursuit of drawing offensive fouls is a younger man's game. Following Hill among the NBA's top five in charges taken are: Utah's Devin Harris (48), Boston's Glen Davis (48), Dallas' J.J. Barea (46) and Oklahoma City's Nick Collison (46).
Two similiarly wily vets -- Lakers guard Derek Fisher (42) and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili (40) -- are next. Then comes Milwaukee's Ersan Ilyasova (39), Golden State's Monta Ellis (38) and -- tied for 10th place in the oomph! brigade with 37 -- Dallas' Corey Brewer, Milwaukee's Jon Brockman, Portland's Wesley Matthews and the Clippers' Blake Griffin.
These stats -- along with some others glimpsed at below -- aren't tracked among the NBA's standard numbers but they probably should be. This late-season snapshot was pulled by the enterprising crew in Minnesota.
"Getting hurt forced me to watch people and learn and try to figure guys' games out," Hill told the Arizona Republic earlier this month. "Now with being healthy and having the confidence in my body, I'm able to analyze guys, trust my body to move and slide and do those types of things. I'm better defensively than when I was younger. ... I trust my body."
Here, thanks again to the same stats pull, is either the NBA's most profligate bulldozer or its leading victim of frequent charges, over-the-back, moving screens or other such offensive offenses: Dwight Howard.
The Orlando center has been tagged with 63 of them, the most in the league by a wide margin. Next, in order: Carmelo Anthony 47, Amar'e Stoudemire 46 -- pushy New Yorkers! -- Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook 41 and Sacramento rookie DeMarcus Cousins 40.
Howard, at the other end, has taken only seven charges, which seems meager for a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate -- until you remember that Howard so often is swatting, altering or otherwise contesting shots above the hardwood rather than flopping down onto it. Westbrook, also with seven charges taken, can't make that argument. But he at least is out on the perimeter, where charges occur less often.
Want some more fun with numbers? Here you go:
• Cousins leads in the competition for the mythical Ace Bandage Bull-In-A-China Shop Award, banging bodies to the tune of 32 offensive fouls drawn and 40 committed. The other four players who ran in the top 20 in both categories: Ellis (38/31), Griffin (37/31), Portland's Gerald Wallace (33/33) and Memphis' Marc Gasol (33/28).
• James Jones has led Miami in offensive fouls drawn all season (32), part of his underrated value to the Heat during their 21-1 run in the days before Mike Miller got healthy and Mike Bibby arrived. That Jones has committed only one offensive foul shows how well he knows his offensive chore, staying anchored at the arc.
• Jones' mirror image is Chicago's Carlos Boozer, who has been whistled for 32 offensive fouls while enduring just one. Zach Randolph is running a similar deficit (1/27), as are Utah rookie Derrick Favors (4/31) and Minnesota strongman Nikola Pekovic (3/24).
It's enough to make you wonder if it's not the lack of contact absorbed by these guys as much as it is a reluctance to sell the call with a flop backward. Big guys often don't like falling, period -- they have farther to go -- with round-heeled Vlade Divac a famous exception.
• In the team category, Milwaukee leads the NBA with 205 offensive fouls drawn. Next in line: Portland (195), Phoenix (178), Utah (169) and Indiana (164). The fewest? Denver (99), Oklahoma City (109), Toronto (113), New Orleans (117) and Philadelphia and the Lakers with 118 each.
• The pushiest teams? New Orleans has had 182 charges or offensive fouls. Sacramento (173) is next, followed by Charlotte (165), Washington (164) and Denver (161). At the other end, there is Philadelphia (96), Portland (99), Dallas (107), Phoenix (109) and Detroit (122).
• Fourteen teams have drawn more offensive fouls than they've committed, led by Portland (plus 96). The Hornets, meanwhile, are under water by 65.
• The All-Flopping Team by position, on a per-minute basis:
PG -- J.J. Barea (1 offensive foul for every 30.3 minutes played)
SG -- Corey Brewer (38.5)
SF -- Ersan Ilyasova (35.8)
PF -- Nick Collison (28.4)
C -- Ben Wallace (58.6)
Among some other transgressions compiled by the Wolves staff:
• Cousins leads the NBA in traveling violations with 41, which gives him 81 turnovers just on offensive fouls and travels. Houston's Kevin Martin has traveled 33 times, followed by Howard 30 and, with 27 each, Toronto's Andrea Bargnani and Indiana's Roy Hibbert.
• Wondering about those superstar calls? LeBron James has been whistled for traveling 17 times this season. Bryant has had 14, Paul Pierce 12 and Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade 11 each.
• Howard also leads the league in 3-second violations with 37, a wide margin over No. 2 DeAndre Jordan (25) of the L.A. Clippers. New Orleans' Emeka Okafor (21) and Hibbert are the only other players with more than 15. So that gives Howard a trifecta of 130 in offensive fouls (63), travels (30) and lane violations (37), all part of his 244 turnovers in 2010-11 (Westbrook leads the league with 269).
• Defensive 3-second violations? There's Howard again at the top of the list with 24. Washington's JaVale McGee has loitered too long on 17 occasions, followed by Boston's Kevin Garnett (16), Stoudemire (14) and New Orleans' David West (12).
• In the ballhandling category of violations -- which includes double-dribbles, discontinued dribbles and palming -- the Lakers' Bryant is the top offender with eight such calls. John Wall and Deron Williams are next with seven each, followed by Tony Parker and Westbrook with six.
• Atlanta, New Jersey and the L.A. Clippers had committed the most shot-clock violations with 62 each. New York (21), Denver (22) and Sacramento (27) have gone to 24 seconds or beyond the least often.
• Conversely, Orlando (67), New York (62) and Boston (59) have pestered opponents into the most shot-clock violations (who says the Knicks don't play defense?).
Houston (27), San Antonio (29) and Cleveland (30) have forced the fewest.
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