Hill's decision makes us wonder
Truth In Advertising, Exhibit A: That soft-drink spot in which we're so cleverly convinced Grant Hill is not who you want to see leaning over an operating table ... or disarming a bomb ... or landing a plane.
And we most certainly can't, judging from his recent decision-making. One full week later, it is still difficult to understand how Hill could commit to the Orlando Magic before knowing for sure that Tim Duncan would be joining him. The San Antonio Spurs, if you haven't heard, won the two-horse Duncan Derby, convincing their franchise to stay in South Texas.
Bound for Central Florida, and bound to be miserable. Let's just say that Mr. Corporate America could use an endorsement deal with Hertz -- and quick. Because if anyone in the NBA needs one of those Never-Lost gizmos, it's Hill.
Only Hill could find the Duncan-less Magic a more appealing option than Detroit, where, traditional aesthetics aside, the Pistons still have lots to offer. They are open to a one-year contract, which is what Hill originally wanted. They are now run by Hill's buddy Joe Dumars, which is what Hill also wanted. Most importantly, they are a team that Jalen Rose and Chris Webber see as a possible destination, which is what anyone in the league would want.
Yet Hill chose Orlando, without waiting for Duncan's decision, and now he and his new city are praying desperately for a miracle. And, no, the WNBA doesn't count. Even scoring a binding commitment from the ever-fickle Tracy McGrady won't be enough to make this work, because a Hill-McGrady partnership isn't much of an upgrade on a Hill-Jerry Stackhouse pairing. Not if Hill is hoping to silence his critics someday and win a championship.
Hill, remember, needs lots of help, since we all know what happens when he tries to carry a team: Not much. The Pistons, in Hill's six seasons, made the playoffs four times. They advanced past the first round zero times. They lost playoff matchups with Orlando, Atlanta (twice) and Miami, and only once did the winner of those encounters make it past the second round.
It would have been way too much to expect for Hill to carry the Pistons to a title single-handedly. Getting to Round 2 at least once, by contrast, is a hardly unreasonable request to put to one of the league's (alleged) five best players.
Apparently, Hill has to have a Duncan at his side to really achieve something in this game. Webber would probably work, too. But Hill won't have either one as a teammate now, unless he backs out of his verbal commitment to the Magic to sign with San Antonio or stay in Detroit. Or unless you recognize the fact that Hill and Duncan still employ the same agent, Lon Babby, which makes Hill's foul-up even more of a head-scratcher.
Common sense says Hill should have had inside information, that he had to know Duncan's leanings. For Hill's sake, you have to hope it comes out later that it was indeed Duncan who made the curious call at the last second, spurning Orlando and scrapping The Plan after Hill committed first to take the heat off.
Otherwise, Hill walked away from a situation that wasn't nearly as bad as it looked. Detroit was only marginally over the cap with Hill and only has to put up with Christian Laettner for one more season. And while it will be difficult to land Indiana's Rose or Sacramento's Webber, at least there's a chance. Rose likes the idea of playing there and ditto Webber, the Duncan of next summer's free-agent pool. Without Hill, the Pistons drop more than $8 million under the cap and still might have a shot at those Michigan men, because of Rose and Webber's shared interest in the idea.
Hill should have waited out Duncan, then taken the Pistons' one-year, $9 million pitch. Next summer, Hill would have had the chance to bolt for San Antonio, Miami or Dallas if Detroit failed to acquire one or both of the Fab Fivers.
Instead, the ex-Pistons pitchman merely confirmed the validity of that soda-pop advert. No, you definitely don't rely on Grant Hill to tell you what to drink, because he hasn't got it right yet.
Wandering the West
Marc Stein, who covers the NBA for The Dallas Morning News, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.
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