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The Hill Effect

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I remember when I first heard the news that Grant Hill was coming to play for the Suns. One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind was that he was going to help us, that he is a great player and a great guy, great competitor. In a matter of seconds, all of these thoughts went away with the ugly premonition that he was not going to help us at all. He most certainly was going to get injured and spend most of the games sitting in the bench. Well, I guess he proved me wrong, kind of.

The Suns had nothing to lose, or at least that’s what they thought at the time. They would get a versatile player, with the ability to create his own shot, good defender, great hustler and a veteran who would not panic at crunch time, not only that, they would get him for $1.8 million this season and almost $2 million in 2008-09 at the player's option.

 

His agent said at the time:

 

”Obviously money wasn't the biggest factor here, He had offers for a lot more money. Grant wants a chance to win a championship and he wanted to go to a place that would give him a chance to contribute. Phoenix was the perfect fit."

 

Oh and he was, maybe too perfect. Grant would become a starter, and many of us thought that it was a mistake, it’s still debatable. What we know, for sure, is how fast these opinions were silenced and how quickly these thoughts vanished from our heads once we saw him play.

 

Hill averaged 13.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 2007-08 while shooting at least 50 percent from the field (.503) for the third time in the last four seasons and establishing a career-high in free-throw efficiency (.867). Both his rebound and assist averages were his highest in five seasons.

 

But it was not only his numbers, every time he stepped on the court we would see him making a great pass or an awesome drive or grab a critical rebound and maybe the eventual Slam Dunk.

Grant Hill was back, and God knows we needed him, with an inconsistent Diaw and a streaky Barbosa, he was bailing us out of a huge mess. Grant Hill was back, there was no doubt about it and we felt lucky, really lucky.

 

Ironically, having him around was like taking a breath of fresh air. He did not take things for granted, he was healthy, playing at a high level for a championship caliber team. He became the spark that the team needed, a team that was upset, hurt and stuck in time with a playoff hangover.

 

The horrible thought of Grant getting injured became even more scary, losing him would make Coach D make adjustments ----and we all knew that was not his forte---- we would jump out of our seats every time he fell on the floor, grab our heads and pray for the best…and then sigh in relief  when we saw he was Ok.

 

The rest is history, Grant had an appendectomy done and was bothered by a pulled groin ever since (along with a bruised wrist). He was never the same. He morphed back into the Grant Hill of the Orlando Magic, the one that you couldn’t count on, the one sitting on the bench in a suit.

 

A lot have been said about his decision of not coming clean and just saying that he couldn’t play. So I will no get into that. What I know for sure is that this played a big part in the first round loss. It didn’t allow the coach to make adjustments before the series started, the game plan was the same, but we were missing an important piece, the problem was that we didn’t know…until it was too late.

 

I can understand why he stayed quiet, maybe he felt good before each game, maybe he was so happy to be there that he didn’t want to spoil the moment. Perhaps life couldn’t be so unfair to just lift him really high and then just…drop him. But here, in the valley of the Sun, we know unfair…we have managed to know her really well. And yet here we stand. Looking forward.

 

I still believe in this team, we have a lot of talent. If Grant stays, he has already proved that he can help us.

 

Grant said that he felt that playing here was like a reward, to be able to play with the good guys.

 

Regardless of what happened or happens…it has certainly felt that way from my end.