When Jordan Hill arrived in L.A. as part of the Derek Fisher trade, his role was pretty clear, in the sense it didn't exist. Beyond a knee injury suffered shortly after getting his new uni, Mike Brown was committed to Josh McRoberts as the primary reserve big, with Troy Murphy getting occasional minutes as a situational lefty spreading the floor. Hill is undoubtedly more athletic than either guys and his credentials as a rebounder had been established. However, he's also young, fairly raw, and carries a reputation for mistakes on the court. And such players often don't crack the rotation as a late-addition to a team seeking a title.
But there are always exceptions to the rule. Phil Jackson, for example, threw Shannon Brown unexpectedly into the fire right before the 2009 championship run. And after an April 20 blowout loss in San Antonio, Brown decided a change was needed. Thu, he called Hill at 2 am to inform the kid he'd finally be getting some run. That PT resulted in a 14 point, 15 rebound double-double against OKC, along with a job for Hill. His playoff showing was the roller coaster one might expect from a role player with no postseason experience and still honing his craft. In a nutshell, Hill was all over the map. But he averaged 6.4 rebounds per contest in less than 20 minutes, and save starter-in-6th man's-clothing Lamar Odom, Hill's the best 4/5 off the Laker bench since Ronny Turiaf.
I wouldn't be surprised if the team was interested in retaining the impending free agent's services, and if that's the case, the feeling is mutual.
"Yeah, it's definitely one of, if not the best organizations in the league and I had great time here, with the short time I was here," said Hill during his exit interview. "The staff, players, everybody. I just enjoyed it.
"I just never thought I would be in this position, with the Lakers. All-Stars. Champions. Back-to-back championships. Different championships. I just wanted to go out there and if I get my opportunity, just take advantage of it. Just being around those guys, it was definitely a great feeling. Just having fun. Jokes. Hanging out. You feel like you can be a kid again, off the court. It was definitely a great feeling. I'm definitely forward to, if possible, more to come."
Whether the Lakers will be able to land Hill's services, however, remains to be seen. Everyone knows the piggy bank will be dipped into carefully with the new CBA looming, which could mean getting outbid on a player identified by ESPN.com's John Hollinger as a rising stock. Perhaps the dollars could be offset by a less expensive, longer deal, as Hill yearns for some stability after being on three teams in three years.
"It definitely would be great," nodded Hill. "I hate moving. A lot of moving, definitely trying to learn a new system all over again. Especially at a young age, just getting into the league. But I mean, things happen. It's all a business. I definitely gotta stay prepared for it and that's what I've been doing. Just find a home for me."
Another plus would be the chance to continue playing with Kobe Bryant, an experience Hill relished.
"Ah, man. I never thought that would happen to me, to play alongside one of the greatest. He's just a competitor. People probably think he would be a different guy, just because of who he is and how he is. But man, Kobe's just like one of us. Have fun. Smile. Laugh. Jokes. It was crazy seeing all that. But when it's time to get that ball in the hands, it's game-time. That's what he's about. I enjoy being around him and definitely playing with him."
Wherever he may land, the forward doesn't expect his looming legal issues -- Hill faces felony charges for choking a girlfriend -- to clash with his professional pursuits this offseason.
"Since the season's over now, I definitely gotta pay attention more to that," acknowledged Hill. "But I know what I have to do. Just gotta be prepared, be ready for the next season. Get that over with and continue to move on and become hopefully one of the best players in the league, if possible."