Suns Sign Grant Hill

July 11, 2007

By ANDREW BAGNATO, AP Sports Writer

PHOENIX

As an unrestricted free agent, Grant Hill had plenty of options. He chose the Phoenix Suns because he wants the same thing they do: an NBA title. A championship trophy has eluded the Suns since their birth in 1968 and Hill during an injury-plagued 13-year career.

"I'm sure everybody knows I've been through a lot," said Hill, who was introduced at a US Airways Center news conference Wednesday. "But I feel like this is a reward, the opportunity to play here and try to win a world championship.

"You want to win, and that should be your goal every year. "That's the goal here."

Hill said he was courted by at least 10 other teams, which he did not identify.

The Suns have won three straight Pacific Division titles but have not advanced to the NBA finals during that span. They hope Hill will be the piece they've been missing.

"He's really been our only target, our priority, during free agency," general manager Steve Kerr said. "He was the guy we felt could make the biggest impact for our franchise. We're excited about what he's going to bring to us, both on and off the floor. Basketball-wise, I think he's the perfect fit for our system."

The 6-foot-8 forward agreed to a two-year deal worth about $1.8 million for the first year, with a second-year player option for about $2 million.

Hill comes to Phoenix from Orlando, where he spent seven frustrating years. Hobbled mostly by ankle injuries, Hill played in about a third of the Magic's regular-season games after signing a seven-year, $93 million contract.

Last season, though, Hill played in 65 games, averaging 14.4 points, 2.1 assists and 3.6 rebounds. His production and hustle gave the Suns hope that he can contribute to their up-tempo attack.

"Right off the bat, you think he'll probably start and you'd think play 25 minutes (per game)," said coach Mike D'Antoni, who hasn't settled on a playing rotation.

Hill is a seven-time NBA All-Star who has averaged 20.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists. Only two other active players -- LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- have averaged at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.

The Suns hope Hill's ability to play in the open court will take some of the pressure off point guard Steve Nash.

"He's one of the best playmakers in the league, especially off the ball, so that will help Steve," D'Antoni said.

Hill may have to improve his 3-point shooting, which is critical to the Suns' system. He has shot only 65-of-259 (25.1 percent) from beyond the arc in his career.

"He'd better get on the court tomorrow and start jacking them up," D'Antoni said.

Hill acknowledged that it will take time -- in the form of high-energy minutes -- for him to show he's healthy. Hill cited Nash's endorsement of the Suns' medical staff as one of the reasons he chose the club.

"I feel great," Hill said. "I understand where people might be somewhat cynical. Ultimately time will tell."

Many fans in Orlando were unhappy when Hill left. Hill didn't blame them for being frustrated.

"I understand how it works," he said. "There's always going to be disappointment. When Shaquille O'Neal left, Orlando people were disappointed. Any time someone leaves, there's disappointment. Unfortunately, the fans are the ones that are shortchanged. But it's an unfortunate thing. I still wish the best for that organization."

Hill made a strong first impression with his new organization by trading jokes with D'Antoni in front of the media.

In response to a question about Hill's durability, D'Antoni referred to Hill as "a young 35."

Hill, who turns 35 in October, raised his eyebrows and put his hand on D'Antoni's arm.

"Coach, I'm 34," Hill said.

"He's getting younger already," D'Antoni said.

In another move, the Suns completed the trade that sent forward James Jones and the draft rights to Spanish guard Rudy Fernandez, the 24th overall pick in the NBA draft, to Portland for $3 million.

Copyright © 2007, The Associated Press