GRANT HILL WILL BE GAME-TIME DECISION VS. MAGIC
PLAYA VISTA – Grant Hill’s regular-season debut may be inching closer.
After more than a week of full-speed participation in practice the Clippers’ veteran forward has been upgraded to a game-time decision for Saturday afternoon’s matchup with the Orlando Magic.
“He looked good, got up and down a little bit,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said following Friday’s practice.
“He’s just got to get his wind. We’ll see how he feels tomorrow and make that decision [about whether or not he plays] before the game.
“He’s been wanting to play for a while, but there’s a process in place for him. And when Jasen [Powell], our trainer, says, ‘He’s ready to go,’ he’s ready to go.”
Del Negro said there have not been any setbacks for Hill, who has missed 36 games with a bone bruise in his right knee. Hill has not played since Oct. 13 when he had eight points and three rebounds in an exhibition game against the Miami Heat in Shanghai.
“We won’t know enough until he starts playing in games and gets in better condition,” Del Negro said about Hill’s health. “We’ve got to get him out there to get him a few minutes here or there and see how he feels and we’ll figure everything out.”
Part of Del Negro’s challenge may be figuring out where Hill, an 18-year veteran and seven-time All-Star, fits into the rotation. Though, Del Negro has often said it should be easy with a player like Hill, who “can play four positions.”
Blake Griffin added that Hill’s presence will be a welcome addition to the lineup: “He brings another perimeter defender and obviously veteran leadership, somebody that can kind of remain calm and be kind of a coach on the floor for us.”
Despite playing all but three games without Hill and Chauncey Billups, the Clippers own the NBA’s best winning percentage entering Friday. It’s a testament to the team’s depth, which could be bolstered with Hill’s return seemingly imminent.
According to Del Negro, Billups, who has missed the last 19 games with peroneal tendinitis in his left foot, is not as close. “I think the early part of next week maybe [Billups will] start conditioning and doing stuff,” Del Negro said. “But he’s not nearly as far along as Grant.”