Shin shelves Magic's Hill

Posted: Sunday, April 10, 2005

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Grant Hill's comeback season is over, cut short by a sore left shin.

The Orlando Magic forward has experienced pain on and off since being kicked almost six weeks ago, and Hill's stride recently has been thrown out of balance. He and team officials worry that if he favors the leg, he could re-injure the left ankle that sidelined him for most of the previous four seasons.

''Ultimately, we're looking at the big picture,'' Hill said Friday, before Orlando played his former team, the Detroit Pistons.

Hill averaged 19.7 points on 51 percent shooting, 4.7 rebounds and 1.45 steals this season. He played in 67 games — 20 more than the last four seasons combined.

In a tribute to his perseverance and performance, fans voted him as a starter to the All-Star Game, his sixth appearance in the league's showcase game.

After being hurt on Feb. 27, Hill missed three games in early March then returned for another 11 games.

But the pain flared up, forcing him to the bench for the fourth quarter of a game against Washington on April 1, and he hasn't played since.

Hill's injury isn't endangering the repairs to the ankle, Magic general manager John Weisbrod said. Also, Hill needs only to rest the leg for the shin to heal.

''He's been in a lot of pain,'' Weisbrod said. ''I think he's been reluctant to sit out for any reason other than the original ankle problem.''

With Hill out of the lineup, the Magic have faded from the playoff picture, going 1-3 since his last full game. Orlando also is without swingman Hedo Turkoglu, the team's third-leading scorer, who broke his left wrist on March 21.

Because the Magic already have the maximum three players on the injured list, the team received an injury exception from the league and guard Mark Jones joined Orlando's roster. He played four games with the Magic last month, averaging two points.

Hill's injury woes have been a constant since he signed a seven-year, $93 million contract in August 2000. In his first three seasons, he played, four, 14 and 29 games, teasing the team with flashes of his all-around talents.

With Hill's contract taking up salary-cap room, the Magic were handicapped in finding players to complement Tracy McGrady, who signed with Orlando when Hill did. Following four seasons in which McGrady was forced to carry the team, he and the Magic parted on bitter terms last summer.

Even worse for the Magic's front office, the sign-and-trade deal that brought Hill to Orlando sent Ben Wallace to Detroit. Wallace has blossomed into a defensive force, and was a key component in the Pistons' push to the NBA title last year.

Despite the latest setback, Hill remained positive.

''I feel better about my health and my game, better than I felt last year at this time,'' Hill said.

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