Posted on: January 7, 2011 8:41 am
PHOENIX -- It was a reflective Grant Hill who sat down with me at the U.S. Airways Center recently in the midst of momentous change for the team he chose to stay with two summers ago, the Phoenix Suns.
As a second-tier free agent in 2009 -- seemingly a lifetime removed from the hype that saw Hill and Tracy McGrady join the Orlando Magic as free agents nine years earlier -- Hill chose to stay with Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire rather than write a new chapter of his remarkable career in Boston or New York. As Hill knows all too well after having his high-flying career derailed by serious ankle injuries that caused him to miss hundreds of games, plenty can change in two minutes in the NBA, much less two years.
The Celtics were back in the Finals last June and appear hell bent on going back there again, and Stoudemire is now in New York, leading a basketball revival at Madison Square Garden. Hill and Nash have been left behind on a Suns team that is quite obviously at a crossroads after a major trade that sent Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu and Earl Clark to Hill's former team, the Magic, for Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus and Vince Carter. Hill, who at age 38 is having his most productive year since he left Orlando in 2007, said he has no regrets about the decision.
"First of all, it's flattering that former coaches of mine -- Mike D'Antoni, Doc Rivers, and obviously Alvin Gentry here in Phoenix -- were really kind of coming after me hard," Hill said in an interview for CBSSports.com's "In the Moment" series. "It could be worse. They could not want you, I guess.
"It was a fun process. I'm glad I signed back here in Phoenix .We had a great run last year, a great experience. I like the team here. I like the situation, the organization, and I'm happy with the move. Obviously those two other places would've been wonderful and adventurous -- Boston made it to the Finals last year against the Lakers -- but I like what we did last year and I like the challenge that's ahead of us for this year's team."
And quite a challenge it is. The Suns have lost six out of seven since the new players arrived in the trade, and they're in crisis mode as they face a revitalized Knicks team and Stoudemire Friday night at home. Sources familiar with the organization's plan continue to say that GM Lon Babby and assistant GM Lance Blanks do not envision trading Nash and want to give the new group a chance to turn it around before making a final determination on such a drastic teardown move. But if the struggles continue, everyone knows that owner Robert Sarver will not tolerate a playoff payroll on a lottery team.
But for Hill, the challenge of getting the new-look Suns to play better is nothing compared to the personal struggle he's endured. Ankle injuries, multiple surgeries, and a staph infection that nearly killed him -- Hill admitted those challenges nearly broke him. Watch the interview, and at one point you can see him gesture to the heavens as he apologizes for admitting that he almost gave up.
"It has been an amazing journey," Hill said. "I think I've endured a lot because I love the game. I love to play. That's why I almost died at one point after a staph infection. And there was a point -- forgive me -- but there've been some times where I was very low and questioned whether it was all worth it. But as you start to get healthy, as you start to show signs of improvement, then you start to have that goal and that purpose. And that goal is what gets you through those dark moments and makes you ultimately continue to fight."
After all these years and all the hurdles, Hill said, "I still feel like I'm fighting, still trying to prove myself, still trying to overcome. In a lot of ways it was the best thing that ever happened to me."
It's almost as though the Hill we see now -- cunningly picking his spots and doing the dirty work on defense and around the basket -- is a different person than the one who soared into the NBA out of Duke in 1994 and was touted as "The Next Jordan."
"Sometimes you've got to go through those really dark moments in order to really grow," Hill said. "... I wouldn't change it one bit."
Posted on: July 12, 2010 10:01 pm
Edited on: July 13, 2010 11:15 am
Agent Lon Babby is in the running to become president of the Phoenix Suns even as one of his top clients, Hedo Turkoglu, was traded to the team Monday.
But despite concerns among rival team executives about a conflict of interest, Babby disclosed his dealings with Suns owner Robert Sarver to Turkoglu, recused himself from representing the former Raptors forward, and received a written waiver from Turkoglu acknowledging his approval of the circumstances, two people with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com. The meticulous approach is no surprise, given Babby's reputation of being one of the most forthright agents in the business.
Nonetheless, word of Babby's candidacy to succeed Steve Kerr in Phoenix raised "red flags" among rival executives, one of the execs told CBSSports.com. Not only was Turkoglu traded to the Suns Monday, but he also agreed to waive a portion of his $5 million trade kicker and reduce the amount guaranteed in the final year of his contract as part of the deal, sources said.
Two people familiar with Turkoglu's situation told CBSSports.com that Babby's partner at Washington, D.C., law firm Williams & Connolly, Jim Tanner, had assumed the role of representing Turkoglu in view of Babby's candidacy to become the Suns' president. Babby also has long represented Suns forward Grant Hill. Turkoglu also was receiving independent advice from his financial adviser, who approved the contractual changes that facilitated the trade to Phoenix, the people said.
"Hedo was so unhappy in Toronto that he would've waived the trade kicker regardless," a third person with knowledge of the arrangement said.
In view of Babby's full disclosure, the National Basketball Players Association has no plans to challenge the move, a person familiar with the union's stance said.
Turkoglu was traded to the Suns Monday in a three-team deal that also sent Boris Diaw, Tyson Chandler and Leandro Barbosa to Toronto and Jose Calderon to Charlotte.
Posted on: November 11, 2009 11:50 am
Edited on: November 11, 2009 2:01 pm
The Suns have risen again -- there, I said it, I couldn't help myself -- by matching the franchise's best-ever start at 7-1. It's early, but they've gone from being a dysfunctional team on the verge of blowing up to one of the best stories early in the 2009-10 season.
GM Steve Kerr readily admits that he's to blame for the failed Shaq experiment, but he's erased that mistake and reinvigorated the roster faster than many thought possible. He resisted the temptation to blow it up and start over, something that would've clinched Steve Nash's departure and devastated the organization's ability to remain financially viable. With a meddling owner, Robert Sarver, whose proverbial eggs are in the ruinous banking and real estate baskets of the economy, this was no time for a rebuilding project. So Kerr signed Alvin Gentry, a Mike D’Antoni disciple, to a three-year deal, re-signed 37-year-old Grant Hill, and signed Nash to a two-year, $22 million extension.
"The most important thing to us was that we had good leadership and good mentors for all our young guys," Kerr told me. "So re-signing Grant and signing Steve to the extension was by design. First, they're still really good players. In Steve’s case, he's still an All-Star and in Grant's case, he’s still close to it. So not only do we have two good players, but they're as professional as they come. So we feel like we're making this transition towards the future in a really healthy way."
Here's what else you need to know about the resurgent Suns:
At 37, Hill is averaging 13.2 points per game and a team-high 8.6 rebounds. He and Jason Richardson (5.2 rebounds per game from the two-guard spot) have answered Gentry's call for the wing players to make up for Phoenix's lack of front-line size by crashing the boards.
Amar'e Stoudemire is still feeling his way after offseason eye surgery, but he's averaging 19 points and 8.5 rebounds while vowing to commit himself on the defensive end. Nash is, well, Nash; he already has five games with a dozen or more assists, including the 20 he dished out against Philadelphia on Monday night.
One of the byproducts of a soul-searching, 46-win, non-playoff season was the development of some reliable depth. Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic, Louis Amundson, and Jared Dudley form a versatile and effective second unit. Dudley already has made 11 3-pointers, nearly a third of his total in 68 games last season with Charlotte and Phoenix. The Suns have high hopes for first-round pick Earl Clark, whose locker has been strategically placed next to Hill's.
After wandering aimlessly through the first four years of his career in New York and Portland, Channing Frye has been a revelation. The Suns knew he could shoot when they signed him to a two-year, $3.8 million deal. They didn’t know he'd shoot with this kind of range. Frye is 22 for 50 from 3-point range and says the Suns' coaches "get mad when I don’t shoot."
Kerr, not a bad marksman himself back in the day, recalls being blown away in August when Frye showed up for workouts and pickup games.
"His first couple of years in New York, he was great from 21, 22 feet," Kerr said. "That would've been fine for us, too. What happened was, he came in and started working out and playing pickup games and was draining 3s from the wing and the top. We were like, 'Wow, this is more than we bargained for.'"
Frye's hard work paid off. He was up at 5 a.m. for weeks at a time during the early part of the summer, working on ball-handling and mid-range shots on the move from 6-9 a.m. He was back in the gym from 5-6 p.m. to shoot "nothing but 3s." Now he’s hitting nothing but net.
It’s way too early to draw conclusions, but through eight games, the Suns are back to playing the style that made them so entertaining and successful under D'Antoni. It's not exactly seven seconds or less, but Phoenix is getting 39 percent of its attempts in the first 10 seconds of the shot clock, according to 82games.com. That's comparable to the 43 percent achieved in 2006-07, the last time they got past the first round.
The Suns are averaging a league-high 110.9 points per game -- 114 per 100 possessions -- which is virtually identical to the 110.2 and 114 in '06-'07. Yes, defense is still an issue. Phoenix is allowing 105.8 points per game, which is sixth-worst in the league and nearly three points more per game than in D'Antoni’s next-to-last season before bolting for New York.
After a 4-1 road trip that included wins over Miami and Boston, the Suns return home Wednesday night to face the struggling Hornets. Then, it's off to L.A. to face Kobe and the Lakers on the back-end of a back-to-back.
The Suns ultimately will struggle against teams with size, and their style still doesn't translate to playoff success. But given the cards Kerr dealt himself when he reached for Shaq, Phoenix's resurgence is nothing to scoff at. At least the Suns are relevant and fun again.
Having played for Phil Jackson, Kerr believes that basketball teams take on a certain "life force." After a lifeless 2008-09, the Suns have been resuscitated.
"We got panned by a lot of people for not going young and breaking it up and starting over," Kerr said. "But we've seen a lot of teams do that and fail, too. If you go too young in this league, then you’re rudderless. You have guys fighting over shots and minutes, no hierarchy, no totem pole, and that's a recipe for disaster."
Posted on: July 10, 2009 3:59 pm
Edited on: July 10, 2009 4:54 pm
Grant Hill considered plenty of issues in deciding whether to re-sign with the Suns or accept offers from the Celtics or Knicks. Paramount among them is Hill's expectation that Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire will be joining him.
"It's important for Grant that Steve be there next year," Hill's agent, Lon Babby, said on a conference call Friday. "I know they have had conversations, so I think he’s quite confident that the team that’s coming back next year is going to be a highly, highly competitive team. And obviously, that would include Steve Nash."
As for Stoudemire, who has been discussed as a possible trade chip in discussions with Golden State that emerged on draft day, Babby said, "That's certainly a concern. I wouldn't say (Hill) has been given any assurances, but I think the expectation is that (Stoudemire) will be there bext year. He has opt-out after next season, but I don’t think there’s any reason to believe he’s not going to be there next year."
Nash, scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent after next season, is in discussed with the Suns about an extension that would keep him in Phoenix.
Hill, 36, accepted a one-year deal with the Suns for $3 million with an option for a second year at $3.2 million, Babby said. The Knicks, who hosted Hill in New York earlier this week for a free-agent visit, offered a one-year deal at the full mid-level exception of $5.9 million. New York also offered a two-year deal with an option for the third, but it was not at the full mid-level for all three years. A longer deal with Phoenix also was discussed, but Hill preferred the 1-year deal with an option, Babby said.
Hill also met with Celtics coach Doc Rivers at least once, spoke numerous times with team president Danny Ainge, and also spoke with Ray Allen, who also is represented by Babby. Like the Knicks, Boston offered all it was able to under the rules, but the Celtics only had the bi-annual exception of about $2 million per year available.
"He thought long and hard about the alternatives," Babby said. "He did not come to this decision easily or lightly. Each of those three places had a lot to offer and very different things to offer. That’s what made it challenging."
Posted on: July 2, 2009 5:27 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2009 11:04 pm
UPDATES THROUGHOUT with Ariza committing to Rockets
Rockets GM Daryl Morey is proving himself to be not only among the most innovative executives in the NBA, but one of the best traveled, too. Morey opened the free-agent negotiating period by meeting with Orlando restricted free agent Marcin Gortat, and on Thursday Morey traveled to Las Vegas, where he got a verbal commitment from Lakers free agent Trevor Ariza.
Though Ariza, 24, had a breakout season from a health and 3-point shooting standpoint and preserved two wins against Denver in the Western Conference finals with his defense, it's a buyer's market in free agency this year. One of the golden rules in any environment is not to overpay based on one year of production. That's especially the case this year, although it only takes one team to set the market.
Posted on: July 1, 2009 7:18 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2009 2:20 am
You want buzz? How's Ron Artest playing on the same team with LeBron James and Shaquille O'Neal?
Posted on: February 5, 2009 10:52 pm
Edited on: February 6, 2009 8:59 am
We told you Thursday with Jason Horowitz that there have been significant developments since then, and that the Suns' brass were considering firing coach Terry Porter, or trading Stoudemire or Shaq.
Now the Suns have reached a crossroads: Everything is on the table -- a coaching change, a big trade, and another new direction.
Sources have told CBSSports.com that the organization is poised for a major relaunch before the Feb. 19 trade deadline, with the first option believed to be a trade that would divest cash-strapped owner Robert Sarver of massive obligations to Stoudemire or O'Neal.
Frustration in the front office and locker room boiled over last Saturday night, when the Suns lost to the Bulls at home. Sarver, president Steve Kerr, coaches, and two players -- Steve Nash and Grant Hill -- met behind closed doors for almost an hour after the loss. But two people familiar with the situation said that meeting was overblown; essentially, it was an extension of a series of soul-searching sessions under way recently. Sarver's tolerance for losses both basketball and financial have been seriously diminished by the economic downturn; he's in the banking business, not the best business to be in during the current financial catastrophe.
Failing to assert themselves as a serious contender, the Suns are seeking to bring back young talent on rookie contracts, draft picks, and if possible, expiring contracts in any deal for Stoudemire or Shaq. Things seemed to stabilize after the closed-door meeting when the Suns blew out Sacramento by 48 points in their next game. But inconsistency has been their only staple; Phoenix followed up with an inexcusable loss to Golden State, which exemplified the run-and-gun style that was good for 58 wins a year the past four seasons under Mike D'Antoni in Phoenix.
Those days are over, and it appears that it's time to tear things down and start over.
Posted on: December 18, 2008 10:19 am
An NBA coaching source who does not toss trade rumors around carelessly confirmed the legitimacy of an Orlando Sentinel report stating that the Suns and Magic could be partners in a Duke-for-Duke swap involving Grant Hill and J.J. Redick. The deal would make sense, the source said, because "both players want out of their respective teams."
Hill, who played six mostly injury-filled seasons in Orlando before signing with the Suns in 2007, is renovating a permanent home in the Orlando area. But the 36-year-old Hill dismissed the speculation Wednesday, saying, "If I get traded, I quit." Hill is a free agent after the season.