|Hill finally gets to postseason with Magic|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 19 April 2007 12:45|
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -Grant Hill leaned back in a leather chair in Orlando's locker room, watching the Washington-Indiana game and waiting to learn the Magic's postseason opponent.|
His teammates nearby were cheering for the Pacers, hoping they would help Orlando secure the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Hill sat quietly. The outcome, the next opponent, didn't matter.
The seven-time All-Star spent the last seven years and 589 games without playing a single minute in the postseason, his career slowed because of a recurring left ankle injury. All Hill cared about was getting back to the playoffs.
``This is fun. The tough part, the emotional part, is when you're not in there, when you're sitting on the sideline or when you're in the hospital watching,'' Hill said. ``This is great. I'm excited. It's a great opportunity. These opportunities don't come very often.''
The eighth-seeded Magic, who have won six of their last seven games, open the first round at top-seeded Detroit. The Pistons won all four meetings this season, maybe the main reason Hill's teammates were rooting for the Pacers.
But Detroit is a fitting spot for Hill's return to the playoffs. Not only is it the 6-foot-6 forward's former team, it's also the place where his injury woes began.
Hill initially hurt his ankle in April 2000. He missed the final three games of the regular season but returned against Miami in the playoffs. He played two games, averaging 11 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists, before doctors determined the ankle was broken.
His season ended one game before Detroit's.
His career was never the same.
Despite the injury, Hill signed a seven-year, $93 million contract with the Magic in August 2000. He was supposed to team with Tracy McGrady and give Orlando one of the league's best scoring tandems.
It never quite worked out as planned.
In his first three years in Orlando, Hill played four, 14 and 29 games before having season-ending surgery. He sat out his entire fourth season (2003-04) following his fifth ankle surgery.
He bounced back to play 67 games the following year, but spent the final seven games on the injured list because of a bruised shin.
Although his ankle felt fine, he sat out most of last season following surgery to repair a sports hernia.
So this year marked the first time Hill has played through the closing part of any season with the Magic. When the team made the playoffs in 2001, 2002 and 2003, he watched from the sideline.
``When you're younger, when you're like 24, you think, 'Oh, I've got many more to experience,''' Hill said. ``But I'm just grateful for the opportunity. I'm looking forward to playing.''
Hill could have retired along the way, deciding to forgo another painful rehabilitation stint. But he badly wanted to prove he could play again - and get back to the playoffs.
Now, he knows all those comebacks were worth the trouble.
The 34-year-old Hill averaged 14.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists this season, playing a supporting role to young star Dwight Howard.
Hill knows he never will be the player he once was - he averaged 25.8 points, 6.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists his last season in Detroit - but at least he gets another playoff run.
``I'm more happy for Grant than I am for anyone here,'' teammate Jameer Nelson said.
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