Grant Hill to L.A. Clippers: Can He Survive L.A.'s Training Staff?
I'm afraid that the answer will be "No."
When Phoenix radio host John Gambadoro reported that Grant Hill was headed for the Los Angeles Clippers, I immediately envisioned Hill's arm falling off upon signing the contract. That's a bit extreme, but there are reasons to doubt a man's health with the Clippers. To be clear, I do not believe in a "Clipper curse," just as I don't believe ghosts, boogie men or any other supernatural phenomenon.
I do, however, believe in incompetence. I believe in not believing in owner Donald Sterling. This is an organization for which winning has been ancillary to skimming profits. It's been this way for some time—since the team moved up from San Diego after a series of tank jobs that justified the departure.
Sterling is lawsuit happy and prone to not paying his employees (via the Los Angeles Times). Does this sound like a man who goes the extra mile on medical attention? Does this sound like an owner who looks into Phoenix's medical practices and tries to imitate them? No, this sounds like an owner who lets his GM go and hires Vinny Del Negro out of cost and convenience.
So I do not have high hopes for Grant Hill, a player who couldn't stay on the court until trudging his old bones into the Phoenix desert. In three seasons, between the ages of 28 and 30, Hill never played more than 29 games—due mostly to ankle issues. Between ages 28 and 34 (when he finally came to Phoenix), Hill averaged a meager 33 games per season.
The Phoenix staff worked wonders on Grant, as they had for Steve Nash for Shaquille O'Neal. Despite playing heavy minutes, Hill missed a mere three games in a three-season stretch from age 36 to age 38. This was an incredible tally for the guy who couldn't stay on an NBA court during his prime.
Then, last year, Hill's luck ran out a bit when he suffered a torn meniscus and missed nearly a quarter of last year's lockout season. He will be 40 years old at the start of next season, and coming off a knee surgery.
Perhaps the Clippers learned from all the knee injuries they suffered over the years. As compiled by Bill Simmons, L.A.'s notable knee injuries include Michael Brooks, Norm Nixon, Randy Smith, Danny Manning and Shaun Livingston. We're not even counting Blake Griffin, who's on knee issue No. 2 after tearing his meniscus with Team USA. And that's just L.A.'s history with knees, specifically.
It's possible that the Clippers suffered terrible luck and that there isn't a Sterling connection to all the injuries. It's possible, but I doubt it. If injuries were all "freak" occurrences, what would be the point of paying medical staffs so lavishly? Why would there be so much focus on prevention? While I can never prove a connection between Clippers management and torn connective tissue, I can't help but have my suspicions.
Now, finally, for the basketball fit. If Grant Hill can make it through Sterling's obstacle course, he's a fine addition to this team. The Clippers are quite weak on the wings, and they need defense from that area specifically. Hill is a versatile player who can guard multiple positions. He also plays intelligently and should work out some impressive telepathy with Chris Paul.
Again, this is all assuming health—which I wouldn't assume. Perhaps the Clippers have changed. Perhaps their luck has changed. If it has, then Grant Hill is some welcome change.
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