At a time when the Lakers wonder about their identity, reserve forward Jordan Hill provides a perfect blueprint on how to navigate all the various obstacles.
No plays are drawn up for him, yet he still produces. Hill plays in a system that calls for outside shooters and smaller players, but he still provides value. It appeared Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni would reduce his role after doing it before with the New York Knicks, but Hill still kept pushing. Hill personified such qualities in the Lakers’ 103-99 loss Tuesday to the Philadelphia 76ers by posting 10 points on 5 of 8 shooting and eight rebounds.
“I just go out there and hustle every time I’m out there on the floor,” Hill said. “I just go out and bring it every time. No matter how many minutes I get, I just try to bring it.”
So far, that approach has worked.
D’Antoni cites Hill’s “energy” for moving up in the rotation over Antawn Jamison, who hasn’t played in the past six games. Against Philadelphia, Hill posted six points and two rebounds within the first two minutes he checked into the lineup with 7:33 left in the first quarter. Hill also shot even more field goals than Dwight Howard, who had only seven points on 1 of 7 shooting.
“We kind of need Jordan’s energy,” D’Antoni said. “We need his defense and his ability to get offensive rebounds, his ability to be able to run the floor and be a big presence, and mostly having some youthfulness [with] good legs.”
D’Antoni didn’t always have those sentiments.
Hill opened his career in the 2009-10 season with the New York Knicks under D’Antoni in a somewhat precarious position as the eighth overall draft pick. After averaging only four points in 25 minutes through 24 games in New York at the beginning of the 2008-9 season, Hill was then traded to the Houston Rockets with Jared Jefferies before the trade deadline as part of a three-team deal that resulted in the Rockets’ Tracy McGrady going to the Knicks.
“In New York, it was a lot different,” Hill said. “I was a rookie and there were a lot of veterans in front of me at the four and the five. They didn’t know who I was whether I was a four or five. I was kind of frail. It still is, but I know I can definitely play the five or the four. I’m just trying to get better.”