Jan 14, 2011 1:52 PM ET
Not only did Grant Hill return to action Friday, he also had a major hand in finishing off Portland thanks to a personal milestone.
With a third-quarter 17-foot jumper, the forward became the 15th active NBA player to reach 16,000 career points, helping the Suns to their second-consecutive win in Friday’s 115-111 victory over Portland.
“It’s something special,” said Hill, who finished the night with 21 points, seven boards and three assists in 36 minutes. “Just to be able to play after a lot of injuries and still be out there… sometimes I get depressed because I think I could have had a lot more, but I’ll take 16,000. No sense being greedy.”
The veteran had missed the last two games with a mild right knee sprain, before weathering a minor first-half scare after bumping knees with Portland’s Nicolas Batum. Returning to action in the second half, the Duke alum ultimately finished 9-of-14 from the floor, which also included a season-high two three-pointers.
Hill’s final scoring stats line marked his ninth 20-point effort of the season and his most points scored since a season-high 30 back on December 19 in Oklahoma City.
Avoiding their first regular-season series sweep by the Blazers since 1999, the Suns bounced back to overcome their sixth double-digit deficit of the season. Friday’s win marked Phoenix’s second straight when trailing to begin the fourth quarter.
“We got down and fought back,” Hill added. “We competed in the whole second half, had good effort and a lot of fight.”
The veteran forward wasn’t the only Sun to find shooting success against Portland. Jared Dudley tallied his fifth double-digit scoring effort in his last six games (13 points), while Steve Nash paced Phoenix with 23 points and a game-high 13 assists.
“It was a good effort by all the guys,” Hill said. “We need to continue to play well heading into the five-game road trip.”
Next up for the Suns is their 6,475-mile East Coast swing that will include stops in New York, Cleveland, Washington, Detroit and Philadelphia. The team leaves Saturday for Monday's matinee rematch with the Knicks.
JUST NINE DAYS LEFT TO VOTE FOR THE ALL-STAR GAME
The NBA All-Star polls are still open – but just barely! You only have nine days left tocast your vote
for your favorite Suns to represent Phoenix in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game on February 20 in Los Angeles. Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Vince Carter and Robin Lopez are all on the ballot, so vote and vote often on Suns.com or right here at US Airways Center.
“It would be an amazing honor to be an All-Star again,” said Nash. “Anytime you are honored by playing in the All-Star Game alongside the top players in the game, it’s a thrill.”CLICK HERE
to see what “could” happen if the veteran playmaker is voted in to the big game next month in L.A.
On Thursday, Suns guard Mickael Pietrus delivered $5,000 in new sports equipment to the boys and girls varsity basketball programs at Westwind Preparatory Academy and South Mountain High School, as part of the Qwest Communications “Team Assist” program.
“It was a big day,” Pietrus said. “We gave them shoes and jerseys, and they were excited. To me, being here for a month and seeing them know who I was, that’s nice. I like that. I tried to have fun with the kids and put a smile on their faces.”
To tip off his first Suns community relations event, the swingman got the day started with a friendly wager with the youngsters – would he or wouldn’t he sink a half-court shot.
“I had them go to one side if they thought I’d make it and to the other if they thought I’d miss it, “ he said. “Everybody went to the ‘make’ side, and I missed it. Then they said, ‘Oh, you aren’t going to make it again.’ So, everybody went to the ‘miss’ side, and then I made it. I had them do 50 push-ups. You have to show them that you have to work hard to be in the NBA. Work hard and do good in school and good things will happen.
“I’d like to do more for the community because those kids look for you and want to be like you. You want them to go in the right direction. That’s what it’s all about – making the community better.”
COTTON MILE ON SATURDAY
On Saturday, head over to Turf Paradise for the annual running of the Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile – a stakes race named in honor of the late Suns Ring of Honor coaching great who was an avid horse-racing fan and a frequent patron of the racetrack.
Even though the team will be jetting to New York for the tip-off of a five-game East Coast swing, the franchise will be well-represented by friends and family who’ll help pay homage to the 20-year coaching legend who compiled a 341-208 record in the Valley.
“I still remember Cotton out there on the practice floor,” said Steve Nash, who was a rookie under the coaching great in 1996. “He was the smallest guy out there, telling everybody what to do and having that demanding presence which gained everyone’s respect. It was a pleasure to play for him.
“Cotton was a very charismatic guy. He had a real way with players and they really enjoyed playing under him. He’s deeply missed.”
Assistant coach and fellow Ring of Honor great Dan Majerle fondly remembers his former head coach and the man who famously spoke up for him after he was selected by Phoenix in the first round of the 1988 NBA Draft.
“I was very lucky to be drafted by this organization and to play under a guy like Cotton,” explained Thunder Dan. “He put a lot of trust in me as a rookie player and threw me on the court. He let me make mistakes, but as long as I played hard, he lived and died by what I did out there. To be successful, a lot has to do with who you play for, and I was lucky enough to fall into a perfect situation to have Cotton coach me.”
The day’s racing card tips off at 12:30 p.m., with the Cotton Fitzsimmons Mile tentatively scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Turf Paradise is located at 1501 W. Bell Road in Phoenix.
For more info on the race,CLICK HERE
To read more about Cotton’s impact on the Suns and the NBA,CLICK HERE
With two shows slated for Saturday at US Airways Center as the Suns head east, a few members of the Harlem Globetrotters got some early work in at the tail end of the Suns’ morning shootaround – showing off some of their moves to guys like an impressed Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus.
“It’s all about trying to have fun,” said Pietrus about the light-hearted diversion. “We need that right now. We can’t go into a game tight and feel under pressure.
“Life is short, so you have to enjoy it.”