If more surgery needed, Hill will retire
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Grant Hill's next comeback attempt will be his last.
The question the six-time NBA All-Star couldn't answer Monday, though, was when can the Orlando Magic expect him back on the court?
Hill hopes to return by February, but he conceded it might be best for him to wait until the 2004-05 season to play again on the surgically repaired left ankle.
The injury has limited to him to 46 games since signing a $93 million contract three summers ago.
"I'm prepared to do whatever it takes. If it means sitting out a year, I'll do it," Hill said. "I don't want to do it. I want to play. But at the same time, if that's going to help me to further my career, then I'll do that."
Hill suffered a stress fracture to his ankle while playing for Detroit in the 2000 playoffs. He signed with the Magic as a free agent that offseason, hoping that teaming with Tracy McGrady would lead Orlando back to the NBA Finals.
In March, he had surgery for the fourth time. Although he's confident doctors fixed the problem when they broke a bone in his heel to better align the ankle, he's not yet able to run and isn't anywhere close to being ready to test it on the court.
Instead, he's spending hours this summer, exercising, riding a stationary bike and working out in a swimming pool at the Magic's training facility.
"I'm just staying as active as I'm allowed to be," Hill said.
"We're being a little bit more cautious. ... This time last year, six months after surgery, I was already on the court, working my body, trying to get ready for training camp."
Hill played four games three seasons ago. He played 14 in 2001-02 and 29 last season when he averaged 14.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists -- numbers he felt demonstrated he is still capable of performing at a high level.
If his ankle doesn't hold up in his next comeback, Hill doesn't view a fifth operation as an option.
"If I had to go through another surgery, it's just not meant to be," he said.
The NBA denied the Magic salary cap relief for Hill in July, rejecting the team's argument that there was no realistic way the 6-foot-8 forward can play this season. The medical exemption would have been worth about $4.9 million, enough money to pursue a potential starter.
Hill, who will earn $13.3 million this season, said he was encouraged that the findings by an independent doctor seem to suggest there's a chance he will be able resume his career sooner, rather than later.
At the same time, he was disappointed that the team was not able to seek immediate help.
"That would have been awesome," said Hill, who found it difficult watching the Magic lose in the playoffs last spring.
"It's not the easiest thing in the world and not something I'd wish on anybody, but I'm not looking for any sympathy," he said. "It's the cards I've been dealt, and I've got to deal with it. You fall down, you pick yourself back up. That's what I'm trying to do."
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press