Grant HIll
Grant Hill played his first game in Phoenix as opponent.

PHOENIX – A picture of Grant Hill is one of several images that line the interior hallway of U.S. Airways Center.

The ring around the interior includes Suns greats Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash and others and an area with word “Excellence” emblazoned on a mural that lists career statistical leaders. It’s fitting that Hill is included.

He was a mainstay for five seasons in the Valley of the Sun, reviving his career and at the same time thriving as part of Phoenix’s up-tempo system that helped Hill to his only conference finals in 2010.

Gone are Nash and Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire and the days of being perennial contenders for the Pacific Division. All but Jared Dudley, Shannon Brown, Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic remain from any portion of Hill’s stint, which lasted from 2007-08 to 2011-12.

Hill signed with the Clippers in July 2012 and made his regular-season debut two weeks ago. He said his return to Phoenix was good timing for a variety of reasons.

“It feels good to be back,” said Hill, who finished with three points and three rebounds. “It actually worked out perfect. My oldest had her birthday yesterday, so we were able to celebrate. It’s good to be back playing.”

The Suns fans greeted Hill Thursday night with a rousing ovation when he checked in with 3:00 left in the first quarter. He scored his first basket on a layup that came on a feed from Lamar Odom early in the second period and faint screams echoed through the arena almost sounding as though the crowd forgot which uniform Hill was wearing.

It’s understandable, though, that they might.

He scored 4,371 points in Phoenix and re-invented himself as a defensive-minded, 3-point shooting, role player, overcoming multiple ankle surgeries to prove once again durable and healthy.

After he played in his 1,000th career game on Jan. 15 in Houston, Hill said one of his proudest career-accomplishments was playing all 82 games in 2008-09 with the Suns; the only time in his career he did so.

Still, while reflecting on the last five years, Hill sounded like he was ready to re-create some of his Phoenix experience some 370 miles west.

 “I think we had some really good teams, great friendships and memories, great fans,” Hill said. “It was a good time, but now I’m in L.A. and trying to create those same great memories if not better.

“There are not many guys that are still here,” Hill continued. “You talk to guys that you played with in the past throughout the season from time-to-time, but we’re so locked in with what we’re doing with the Clippers, trying to be the best that we can be that it’s hard to maintain a lot of those relationships or those friendships.”