[Note by Wil Cantrell, 06/17/10 10:00 AM MST ]:
In light of all the negativity of the past two days I think it's time to get back to celebrating a fantastic season and the players who helped make it happen ... Let's not let Bob Sarv stop our party ...Onward:
This is the fifth installment in our series of Suns player evaluations. We're going back to school using the old A-F grading system, weighing numbers, opinions, and all that cannot be captured in a statistic--value each player added to the Suns improbable run to the 2010 Western Conference Finals.
We're about to throw a grade at a class act. We're about to judge a man who's already proven his worth by three times winning the NBA's Sportsmanship Award and seven times owning that enviable All-Star status. We're going to examine a fellow who exemplifies what being a team player is all about, with loads of professionalism and leadership just a-swinging in his wake. It's our man Grant, a Hill of a Man. Grant Hill truly personifies the meaning of sportsmanship and love for the game, and this was evidenced by his tremendous efforts during the 2009-10 Phoenix Suns basketball season.
This isn't just about numbers and statistics, either. Okay, so Hill averaged 11.3 points and 5.5 rebounds this season (his highest rebounding average since 2002-03 and his most total rebounds - 445 - in a single season since 1999-00), but did anyone else notice that he seems to be pulling a Clooney on us? I mean, the man just gets hotter and hotter with age. Ask any female NBA basketball fan who they think is the most handsome and they'll likely respond Hill, or with some variation of his name. For this reason I find it difficult to think of even one reason not to give the man an A+. But of course we'll let the fans decide.
Morals. Values. A face you can trust. He could've retired to become a politician (gasp!), but instead Hill decided to keep it real in Arizona and give his heart and soul to the Suns. Hill's amazing attributes cater directly to what propelled the Suns to excel this year. The upbeat, optimistic, grateful and steady Hill pushed his team to succeed. A second season sans injury, with Hill's health often focused on by the media and by pessimistic fans, was a fantastic addition to Hill's outstanding work on the whole.
Hill's outstanding character was magnified during the Western Conference Semifinals, where he saw his first playoff series victory. I'm thinking about the Portland and Spurs games in particular, with Hill's drop-in and lock-down defense and priceless postgame interviews.
Y'all remember this too:
And his age, oh his age ... it seems like whenever he made a great shot or gave us that dependable D someone had to say, "... and that was 37-year-old Grant Hill over in the lane." Next season he'll be 38 and honestly, if he keeps on keeping on the way he's been, he's still going to be better than most of the younger guys out there - in my humble opinion, of course. The basketball dinosaur addressed the issue of his age recently:
"I'd like to prove that I can play until I'm 40. That would be nice. But I'm not going to play if I can't play at a level that I expect. Obviously, I'm not what I was 10 years ago. But I can still contribute and not be a liability. If I'm a liability, it's time to move away, and I'll move away. But, if I've still got it physically and I still have it up here, mentally and emotionally and I have that desire, yeah, I'll play another two or three years.''
Hill is no rookie in this game and he knows that changes are on the horizon. He's shown time and time again that he can adapt to change on the team, and he also knows that there aren't a lot of players that can set him up with a pass like Steve Nash or teams with a game system in which it's easy to make room and time to breathe. It's an easy fit for Hill who has been wise to stick with purple and orange for the latter portion of his career.
Also, it's been said before, and I don't believe it was an accident, that Earl Clark's locker was placed right next to Hill's for a reason. I only hope Clark paid attention to any potential pep talks or pointers that Hill may have imparted (with the best yet to come, I'm sure).
Finally, I love this slideshow. In his own words, Grant Hill modestly reflects on his career. One of my favorite lines consists of Hill looking at a slideshow picture of media day with the Suns for the start of the 09-10 season. He's talking about his pose with Amar'e and Nash, saying "15-20 years from now when they're old and gray and I'm just old, we'll look back...". Grant, we're glad to have you here in the valley of the Sun, and remember - you'll always have fans on the Bright Side.
Final Grade: A+