Grant Hill Won't Opt Out This Summer, Wants to Retire With Suns
It's not out of the question.
In an interview with FanHouse before Friday's Game 3 of West semifinal at San Antonio, Hill, 37, said he won't opt out of his contract this summer and he might just play until he's 40.
"Oh yeah,'' Hill, who is making $3 million this season and has a player option next season for $3.24 million, said after the morning shootaround at the AT&T Center. "I don't plan on opting out. Even after this [contract], if I can still play and still play at this level, I still want to be here. I want to retire as a Sun. ... I don't have any interest in moving.
"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.''
For Hill, who turns 38 on Oct. 5, to make it to 40, he'd have to play three more seasons. If he does that, Hill, who has gotten into 233 of a possible 240 games during his three Suns seasons, could end up playing more games for Phoenix than for any other team.
Hill logged 435 with Detroit from 1994-2000, where he was a five-time All-Star. He was with Orlando from 2000-07, but injuries, primarily to his battered left ankle, resulted in Hill getting into only 200 Magic games.
But Hill has reinvented himself in Phoenix, with general manager Steve Kerr saying he's made a "remarkable transformation'' from once being "one of the top five players in the league 10 years ago.'' Hill doesn't score like he once did, having averaged a career-low 11.3 points during the regular season. But Hill, who has upped his average to 13.5 during the playoffs, has become Phoenix's defensive stalwart.
"Oh, yeah. You kidding me?'' Suns coach Alvin Gentry said when asked if he considers it good news to hear Hill won't opt out of his contract this summer. "I think he's still playing at such a high level. You see the level that he's playing at right now for what we ask him do. We ask him to guard [Manu Ginobili of the Spurs]. The last series, we said said, 'Can you guard Andre Miller, Brandon Roy [of Portland]?' We've asked him to guard Kobe [Bryant], LeBron [James]. And he never complains about it.''
Well, there is one thing Hill complains about. He doesn't like the title "defensive stopper'' many in the Suns' organization have bestowed upon him, including Kerr in a Friday interview.
"I hate that term because any time these guys are capable of going off on you,'' said Hill, who helped hold Ginobili to 11 points Wednesday, when the Suns took a 2-0 series lead with a 110-102 win. "But I think just in terms of being able to play. I still have a little bit of athleticism. And, once you have experience, that's a great combination.''
It's a combination Kerr would love to keep with the Suns a while.
"We want him back,'' Kerr said. "He's a huge part of the plan. It's not just what he does on the court, it's what he does for our young players as a mentor and a leader. He helps define the culture here. That's important. We've got a large group of young players. We put [rookie] Earl Clark's locker right next to him for a reason. We want him to learn from a guy who is as professional as they come. We want Grant here. I think he can play another couple years.''
Just don't mention Hill's age too much. Gentry said it's a running joke between he and Hill about his age, and Gentry laughed about it after Wednesday's game, saying, "He hates it when I call him .''
"Any time I do anything, on television, they'll reference the fact I'm 37,'' Hill said. "My wife told me, 'Oh, Grant Hill bent over to tie his shoelace. Awesome for a 37-year-old.' I told her, 'Why do they always have my age next to what I do?' I saw the quote [from Gentry on Wednesday], and obviously he was being funny. But I appreciate what he said [in lauding Hill]. I look at it like this: I'm 37 years old, but I have a 47-year-old ankle and, because I missed so much time, I'm 27.''
It's often meant as a compliment when Hill's age is brought up because few thought he would last this long in the NBA when he was going through a series of devastating injuries in Orlando. After signing with the Magic in the summer of 2000, Hill played in just 47 games in his first four seasons.
But Hill worked his way back, and signed with the Suns as a free agent in 2007. He signed a new two-year contract, the second being the player option, with Phoenix last summer after being offered deals by New York and Boston. But Hill said he "probably wasn't that close'' to ever wanting to leave the Suns.
"It's great to be recruited after all that I've been through,'' Hill said of still being wanted despite his history of injuries. "But, ultimately, my heart was here in Phoenix. ... I won't say tempting, but attractive in a sense, people were saying at my age, the Boston situation. You take conventional wisdom, 'OK, they have a better chance of winning. They signed Rasheed (Wallace).' But I like this team. I like the organization. ... I didn't necessarily think we'd be this good. But I just enjoy the challenge of seeing how we can improve.
"It's not about money at this point... [Phoenix] is home and this is the right place to be. ... Obviously, to go through [free agency last summer], you want to have an open mind. ... I wouldn't waste New York's time, I wouldn't waste Boston's time, if I didn't seriously think about it. But, in doing that, it just sort of reinforced this is right place to be.''
Hill's continued steady play helped the Suns improve from 46-36 last season, when they missed the playoffs, to 54-28. Two, weeks ago, he became the first three-time winner of NBA Sportsmanship Award. In fact, he's the only guy ever to have won the 15-year-old award more than once.
If Hill does end up playing until he's 40, he just might add a few more to his trophy case.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson