HILL SPARKS RUN IN FIRST APPEARANCE IN TWO WEEKS
MEMPHIS – Unheralded guard Willie Green walked past Grant Hill’s locker after the Clippers’ 91-87 win in Memphis and yelled, “G-Hill, fountain of youth.”
Hill was in the middle of addressing the media with bags of ice wrapped loosely around both knees and a white tub of ice water in front of him. But for nearly 11 and a half minutes in the second half, the 40-year-old Hill may have rediscovered his youthful days.
He scored five points on three shots, knocking down an open 3-pointer in the corner and a turnaround along the baseline after following up an Eric Bledsoe miss with an offensive rebound. The two baskets came in succession and helped kick start a 14-0 run by the Clippers.
He also had two blocked shots, including chasing down Jarryd Bayless to swat the ball away and lead to a Bledsoe 3-pointer on the other end.
“He knows how to play defensively,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said of Hill being part of a group that held the Grizzlies to 14 fourth-quarter points. “[Hill] made some blocks and made a couple of big shots. Like I have said all along, I have no hesitation to put him, Ronny Turiaf or any of those guys in. I have a lot of confidence because I know how hard they work and prepare.”
Hill had not played since logging 14 minutes on Mar. 30 against Houston and in an odd twist almost worked too hard in Memphis to stay ready.
“I was a little worried because this morning, before the game, we went hard 4-on-4 here at the arena,” Hill said. “Me, Chauncey [Billups], Maalik [Wayns], DaJuan [Summers], Ronny [Turiaf], we played a few games up and down. And before the game I went pretty hard, so when they told me at halftime [that I was going to play], I was like, ‘My legs are kind of heavy.’”
But his legs held up and the seven-time All-Star who earlier this season became the 20th active player (including the recently waived Kurt Thomas) to appear in 1,000 career games, said everything worked out.
“The adrenaline kicked in and it was just good to be out there and help your team,” Hill said. “It’s good to know I’ve still got it.
“I’ve just waited for the opportunity and it came tonight.”
Hill’s chance Saturday came after starting small forward Caron Butler left the game after playing nine minutes with a sore right knee. Matt Barnes, Butler’s primary backup, started the second half and Hill was called upon with 1:31 left in the third quarter.
“When someone goes down you need other guys to step up and the way he played tonight was unbelievable,” Blake Griffin said.
It seemed a number of Hill's teammates agreed with Griffin. After Bledsoe's 3-pointer put the Clippers ahead by seven and led to a Grizzlies timeout, nearly the entire group on the bench, including Griffin, popped up to greet Hill as he left the court.
HIll smiled and slapped hands with all of them, looking somewhat like a kid again.