During his career as a Piston Grant Hill seldom had his
clean-cut image sullied. But last summer, when he went to the
Magic in a sign-and-trade, he was accused of abandoning Detroit
and of being--to quote Pistons guard Jerry Stackhouse--"soft."
Most damning of all to Hill was the implication that he was not
worth Orlando's seven-year, $93 million deal. Despite being
named an All-Star in five of his six seasons, he had never taken
the Pistons past the first round of the playoffs. "They're
right," responds Hill, 28. "I haven't won. I take full
responsibility for what happened in Detroit. I was the star
player on the team, and I didn't get it done."
Hill will try to build on his play of 1999-2000, his finest
all-around year. His recuperation from off-season surgery on his
broken left ankle--an injury aggravated by his brave attempt to
play against the Heat in another first-round loss--took longer
than expected during training camp, but the Magic believes the
ankle poses no lasting problems.
For all the criticism of Hill, the intimation that he has no
better chance of succeeding in Orlando than he had in Detroit is
off base. Though the Magic is by no means a title contender this
year, it will be among the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
With nine first-round picks over the next five years, and with
the city of Orlando an ever-attractive destination for free
agents, the Magic is in excellent shape to gradually add the
muscle needed to go all the way.
In the meantime the team will recast itself in Hill's
image--entertaining and productive, but not overly intimidating.
The two new perimeter stars should complement each other: Hill is
primarily a scorer who also finds time to do all the other
things, while Tracy McGrady is a jack-of-all-trades for whom
scoring is secondary. McGrady dismisses talk that he won't like
playing in Hill's shadow. "It's Grant's team," says McGrady, 21,
who also signed a seven-year, $93 million contract. "He's the
All-Star. I ain't done nothing in this league yet. He's going to
teach me some things."
The Magic's immediate success will depend on whether it can
maintain the heart-and-hustle attitude of last season, when it
went 41-41 without a go-to guy. More specifically, Orlando needs
somebody to rebound. Power forward Ben Wallace (along with
reserve point guard Chucky Atkins) was lost to the Pistons in the
sign-and-trade acquisition of Hill, but the Magic held on to
center John Amaechi, who spurned an attractive $17 million,
six-year contract from the Lakers to sign a one-year, $600,000
deal. Amaechi, a skilled scorer, knows that more will be expected
of him. "Last year I was the big surprise," the 6'10" Briton says
dryly. "Now I'm the big weak link: 'He can't rebound; he's soft.'
The truth is that it's never been about just one man here."
Amaechi will be able to hold his own physically most nights in
the center-poor East, and he'll get support on the boards from Bo
Outlaw, Andrew DeClercq and Pat Garrity--each of whom has a high
work rate. The speedy and aggressive Darrell Armstrong returns at
the point, while the shooting and ball handling of 6'8" Mike
Miller, the fifth pick from Florida, will help the Magic force
the fast tempo it needs to compete with the burlier teams. The
gospel according to coach Doc Rivers isn't going to change:
Attack the ball until it's retrieved, then attack the basket all
Whatever the early returns might bring, Hill wants it known that
he is still learning. "The only thing I ask is that people wait
until the player is done playing [to pass judgment]," Hill says.
"We all grow, we all go through changes. Just look at the end
product." Hidden in those words is a promise.
A Magic player topped 30 points only four times last season.
Off-season acquisition Grant Hill scored 30 or more 29 times for
the Pistons in 1999-2000--including a season-high 42 against
STARTERS 1999-2000 KEY STATS
SF Grant Hill 25.8 ppg 6.6 rpg 5.2 apg 1.39 spg 48.9 FG%
PF Bo Outlaw 6.0 ppg 6.4 rpg 3.0 apg 1.80 bpg 60.2 FG%
C John Amaechi 10.5 ppg 3.3 rpg 1.2 apg 43.7 FG% 76.6 FT%
SG Tracy McGrady 15.4 ppg 6.3 rpg 3.3 apg 1.91 bpg 1.14 spg
PG Darrell Armstrong 16.2 ppg 6.1 apg 2.06 spg 43.3 FG% 91.1 FT%
BENCH 1999-2000 KEY STATS
G-F Mike Miller (R)14.1 ppg 6.6 rpg 2.5 apg 1.24 spg 47.6 FG%
F Pat Garrity 8.2 ppg 2.6 rpg 44.1 FG% 40.1 3FG% 72.1 FT%
F-C Andrew DeClercq 6.6 ppg 5.4 rpg 0.80 bpg 0.77 spg 50.8 FG%
G Troy Hudson 8.8 ppg 3.9 apg 2.4 rpg 37.7 FG% 31.1 3FG%
F Monty Williams 8.7 ppg 3.3 rpg 1.4 apg 48.9 FG% 74.1 FT%
New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)
an opposing team's scout sizes up the Magic
"As long as Grant Hill's ankle is healthy, the Magic has two of
the league's best players in him and Tracy McGrady. Orlando added
a lot of skill to a team that was already playing with more
energy than anyone else.... McGrady looks like he's on the verge
of becoming a superstar. The thing about him and Grant is that
they aren't selfish. Doc Rivers is really developing some
chemistry there.... Mike Miller has a pro game right now. He can
really shoot, and he can put it on the floor too--he has a nice
in-between game.... Darrell Armstrong is the heart of the team.
He might fire it up a little too often, but his enthusiasm and
hard work are contagious. I can see him as the point guard of a
championship team.... But that isn't going to happen this year.
Orlando has absolutely no post-up game. The offense will have to
come from transition and movement and screening, which means some
nights the team's going to struggle. It's going to be tough for
the Magic to win against a big physical team, especially in a
long playoff series."