HILL REFLECTS ON FIRST SEASON WITH CLIPPERS

Grant Hill

Grant Hill’s post-basketball career could realistically lead in any direction he desires.

His basketball acumen and personality would make any network lucky to have the seven-time All-Star as an analyst. His longtime involvement in the political world and thoughtful approach to complex social issues would give him the upper hand in any arena of politics he wished to venture. He is an art collector, husband of a musician, father of two and one of the most charitable athletes in sports.

There will be no shortage of opportunities when the 40-year-old Hill is done. He’s just not so sure exactly when that will be.

“I think for the last four or five years I’ve been year-to-year,” Hill said at the conclusion of his first season with the Clippers. “I think the main thing is just sort of getting away from it from a little bit and just seeing how you feel physically and mentally. [Seeing] if you still have the desire and how your body feels. One plus was that I didn’t play a lot this year. Instead of a 40-year-old body, I have a 38-year-old body.”

Hill, who made his regular-season debut with the Clippers on Jan. 12 after missing 36 games with a bone bruise in his right knee, hinted at retirement at various times. But he cautioned to not read too much into those comments.  

“I terms of different things [that were reported] throughout the season,” Hill said. “I’ve been hinting at that for the last six or seven years, so I wouldn’t think too much into that.

“When I first went to Phoenix, I was going to play two more years and hang it up and I remember they kept saying, ‘You could play five or six more years.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Man, they’re crazy.’ I guess I’m crazy because I did.”

He scored fewer than 10 points and played fewer than 20 minutes per game for the first time in his storied career. But he also showed an ability to still impact games. He helped slow down Carmelo Anthony in the fourth quarter of a game in New York when the Knicks start lit up the Clippers for 38 points in the first 36 minutes. He nailed a corner 3-pointer and turnaround jumper and chased down Jerryd Bayless for a blocked shot as part of a 14-0 run in the final week of the regular season to help the Clippers pull out a crucial victory over the Memphis Grizzlies in their race for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Stuck behind Caron Butler and Matt Barnes in the playing rotation, Hill’s spot effort in those two road wins exemplified his ability to stay ready. He talked at length about the challenges he faced during his first season in Los Angeles after five with the Phoenix Suns.

“The circumstances, I think, just the timing of things, getting hurt early, being out for an extended period of time,” Hill said. “You know, that’s the league. We started getting into a nice rhythm, Caron and Matt were playing great and were healthy and consistent all season and had a nice sort of set rotation. It’s tough. It’s not easy to deal with but you understand it. Also, it allowed me the last few weeks [of the season] to really get in the gym and work and play 4-on-4 and get a rhythm and feel and all that stuff back. I certainly felt better the last month than I did back in January when I first came back.”

The way he felt at the end of the season and the extended time off during the summer may play into Hill’s decision about whether or not to come back. He has one year remaining on his contract with the Clippers.

“For me, I got hurt almost two years ago going into the lockout and coming out of the lockout and then this year, it may be a blessing in disguise, not playing as much,” Hill said. “I feel as good as I’ve felt in the last two years. So, that’s a good thing. Maybe that means you should continue to play or you need to get out while you’re healthy. But I do feel great.”

It was evident in the Clippers’ final game, when they were eliminated by the Grizzlies in Game 6 on May 3. Hill played 20:08, went 2-for-4 from the field, hauled in four rebounds and had two assists. Fitting, in that, one of the most versatile players of his generation could have gone out contributing in such a variety of ways.

“If it is my last game, then I’m certainly proud of what I’ve been able to do throughout my career,” Hill said. “If it’s not, I’ll get back in the gym and start working soon.”

Hill’s career has spanned nearly two decades and four franchises. After six stellar seasons in Detroit he overcame a devastating ankle injury and multiple surgeries to appear in his 1,000th game on Jan. 15. Asked to reflect on his basketball journey, he said it is “amazing.”

“To be able to play in this league and do it as long as I’ve been fortunate enough to do it and play 82 games and play with guys,” Hill added. “Experiences have been good and they’ve been bad, a lot of learning and growing, so I’m not complaining one bit. I don’t have any regrets whether I play five more years or I don’t play anymore. It’s been a wonderful ride. We’re all lucky. We’re all fortunate. Sometimes we lose that perspective when you go through some adversity or misfortune like we did in [the series against Memphis]. But it could be worse. I’m still relatively young. I feel like I have a lot more things to do, whether that’s on or off the court.”