HILL “EXCITED” ABOUT DIRECTION OF THE CLIPPERS
Addressing the media Friday for the first time as a member of the Clippers, veteran forward Grant Hill sounded comfortable and confident.
The 17-year veteran, who is coming off five seasons with the Phoenix Suns, signed with the Clippers Wednesday, becoming the team’s third marquee offseason addition. They also brought in free agent Jamal Crawford and traded for forward Lamar Odom.
According to Hill, last season’s success as well as the Clippers’ moves to improve the roster this summer factored in his decision.
“I had some good conversations with Coach [Vinny Del Negro] and I just was impressed with some of the things that went on last year,” Hill said. “Obviously, Blake [Griffin] and his progression, Chris [Paul] coming on board and Chauncey [Billups] and some of the moves that were made this offseason, it just seemed like a good fit and a team that I felt took a big step last season and hopefully we can take another big step.
“Obviously, I am excited to be here with the Clippers and am excited about this team and this upcoming season, and really the future going forward.”
Del Negro echoed Hill’s excitement on a media conference call about an hour later.
“It’s an exciting time for the organization and for the team,” Del Negro said. “We’re very excited to add Grant to our mix, to our organization, and to our family. I have known Grant for a long time and I think that you would be hard pressed to find a guy that has handled himself on and off of the court as well as [he] has in his career.”
Del Negro was an executive with the Suns when Hill first arrived in Phoenix in 2006. And while their familiarity with one another certainly may have helped, Del Negro said it was more about where the Clippers are headed as a franchise.
“I don’t know if it was a matter of selling Grant on the team,” Del Negro said. “It was a matter of sitting down with him and telling him how we do things in the organization and the direction and the vision and how he can be a valuable part of that. It’s not about selling things, I just talked to Grant and told him how I see him fit, and the family fit for him which is very important, and all of the resources that we have as an organization to make him feel as comfortable as possible.”
Part of that comfort level for Hill may be having knowledge of what role is expected of him. He is considered one of the league’s most versatile defenders and last season garnered multiple votes for Defensive Player of the Year and was a candidate for the NBA’s All-Defensive Team. His newfound role as stopper should not change with the Clippers, despite turning 40 near the start of training camp.
“With my versatility and being able to do multiple things on the court on both ends, I assume, was one of the attractions for the Clippers,” Hill said. “It is weird that toward the end of my career I have become more of a defensive player, but that was a role that I needed to play with our team and that was what was asked of me.”
He was also questioned about missing 17 games last season after sitting out just three over the previous three campaigns.
“Last year was a tough year for me and I just wasn’t right at the start of the season,” said Hill, who averaged 10.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 28.1 minutes. “And you combine that with the schedule and the pace of the season. I got to a point midseason where I was feeling good and playing well but there are no excuses and it is what it is. I know people question certainly my age and all that. But since 2000 when I hurt my ankle, people have been questioning me so I am used to that.”
One thing that seemingly matters little to Hill is whether he starts or comes off the bench. In all likelihood he will serve as the backup to small forward Caron Butler.
“You look at teams that win championships, they have depth,” Hill added. “So depth is certainly important and to be able to stick guys out there helps. It is a long season and when you have a team that just relies on the first unit that puts a lot of pressure on the first unit so you have to have guys who can play big minutes and play big roles off the bench.”
Del Negro admitted it may take time to for the group to gel and build trust, but it’s certainly made easier with a player like Hill in the mix.
“There hasn’t been one [signing] that wasn’t our first choice that we haven’t gotten so that’s great,” Del Negro said in reference to the team’s offseason moves. “[Director of Player Personnel] Gary Sacks has worked really hard with [President] Andy Roeser and we work as a team with all this. A lot of energy has gone into this, a lot of planning has gone into it, a lot of execution has gone into it. But, we feel very good about the people we’re bringing in: the players, the talent and really the chemistry of the team to build it the right way.”