2012-2013 Clipper Player Previews: Grant Hill

Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

For three weeks this preseason, we'll be publishing Player Previews for each of the 15 players currently under contract with the Clippers. In some cases there may not be much difference from last season's Exit Interviews, but the team does have seven new faces, and there were some significant developments over the off-season for some of the returning players as well, so let's get caught up with all of them before the season starts. Today's edition, the venerable Grant Hill.

Grant Hill career stats (17 seasons)

PPG

RPG

ASTPG

MPG

PER

17.1

6.1

4.2

34.4

19.2

Everyone knows who Grant Hill is. If you are younger than 20 years old or were born on another planet, you might not know him from the "Grant Hill drinks Sprite" advertising campaign. Regardless of your age or planetary allegiance, you should still know him as one of the most talented basketball players of his generation. Grant Hill turned 40 years old last week, and has had an NBA career that has spanned 17 years. Yet due to the length and nature of his career, there may be some out there who are unaware, or perhaps forgot, just how good a player Hill was. Allow me to refresh your memory.

After winning 2 NCAA titles, Grant Hill was selected 3rd overall in the 1994 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons. He entered the league with serious expectations, and was considered to be the next big thing, the guy who might take the reigns from one Michael Jordan. Hill would not falter under the weight of those lofty expectations. He won co-rookie of the year with soon to be Hall of Famer Jason Kidd, averaging 19.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.0 apg, and 1.8 spg (and just under 1 block per game). He was the first rookie to ever lead the NBA in all star balloting (and the first in any major sport to do so). He went on to be a 7 time all star (leading all vote getters again in his second season), and a 4 time all NBA 2nd teamer. He was named to the all NBA first team in 1997, a year in which he put up some truly mind boggling numbers: in 80 games, he averaged 21.4ppg, 9.0rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.8 spg, while shooting 50% from the field and leading his team to 54 wins (By the way that hall of fame caliber season earned him exactly 0 1st place MVP votes, all of which were split between Michael Jordan and Karl Malone). Hill won a gold medal in Atlanta in 1996, and is 8th all time in triple doubles with 29. All of these accomplishments (save 1 all star appearance in 2004-05) took place in his first 6 seasons.

Grant Hill was well on his way to becoming an NBA legend and global superstar. Unfortunately, Hill was plagued by injuries for a significant part of his career from that point on, most notably a severe ankle injury, and a staph infection that resulted from the attempted repair of the ankle. He played a total of 47 games between 00-01 to 02-03. He returned to form in the 05-06 season (when he was mostly healthy), once again making the all star team, but had numerous setbacks in the following seasons, including a sports hernia that required surgery. So far this sounds like a eulogy for a once great NBA star, right?. But just when it appeared that Grant Hill was inching towards retirement, he found a new home in Phoenix, whose training staff/team of magical wizards got Hill healthy. In his first 4 seasons with Phoenix Grant Hill played in 70, 82, 81, and 80 games, and was averaging about 30 mins per game. Keep in mind that Hill was age 36-38. He also played in 49 games during last years strike shortened season. Most remarkable of all, Hill was the best perimeter defender on the Suns, and even at age 39, was causing real headaches for NBA superstars like Derrick Rose, Monta Ellis, Kevin Durant, and even Chris Paul and Blake Griffin

Which brings us to 2012. Grant Hill was signed by the Clippers as a free agent this off-season to help strengthen the bench. At 40 years old, there is some question as to what he brings to the table for the Clips. At age 40, it's certainly a fair question. What is so great about this signing is that it is mutually beneficial for both parties. For the Clippers, Hill is an experienced, hard working, high IQ veteran and all around great guy ( Hill is a 3 time winner of the NBA sportsmanship award). He is a versatile defender (remarkably still defending 4 positions on a regular basis), a good passer, and a respected, positive role model in the locker room. For Hill, the Clippers present an opportunity to play with one of the NBA's great stars in Chris Paul, and at Hill's age, playing with a smart point guard who can set the table and get you easy points is a huge advantage. The Clippers are undeniably contenders in the Western Conference and can offer Hill a defined consistent role off the bench, but also have the depth to allow Hill to take games off, rest, and stay healthy over 82 games. This may be a farewell tour of sorts for Grant Hill, but make no mistake, Hill will be a contributor and important part of any success this Clipper team has.

It should be a perfect fit. Grant Hill is an all-time great in my book, and Clipper fans are lucky to have the opportunity to see him play this season.

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