- Dave McMenamin, ESPN.com
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As the days tick down until NBA free agency officially opens on July 1, unrestricted free agent Jordan Hill and the Los Angeles Lakers both want to see the 6-foot-10 big man wearing purple and gold next season.
"They're the leader in the clubhouse right now," Hill's agent, Kevin Bradbury, told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Wednesday.
Hill, who turns 25 next month, sat at the end of Lakers coach Mike Brown's bench after being acquired from the Houston Rockets in a deal for Derek Fisher at the trade deadline in March but eventually broke into the rotation. He contributed three double-doubles over the course of six games from the second to last game of the regular season through Game 4 of the Lakers' first round series against the Denver Nuggets. The Lakers won all three games.
Right at the top of the Lakers' to-do list come July 1 is to engage Hill in contract negotiations, a source familiar with the team's thinking told ESPNLosAngeles.com. Even though Hill is unrestricted and the Lakers are over the luxury tax for next season, the Lakers hold partial Bird rights to him and can offer Hill a maximum of $3,632,450 a season for up to five years. Even though Hill is young and has shown flashes of brilliance in his three-year career thus far, he comes with a couple of question marks stemming from the MCL injury he sustained to his right knee last season as well as a pending felony assault court case. Those question marks, along with their partial Bird rights, figure to allow the Lakers to make a competitive enough offer that will be comparable with what the free-agent market will bear for him.
A court date for Hill was scheduled for June 8, but it is unclear if he ended up having to attend the hearing.
"It should be handled fairly quickly," said Bradbury, acknowledging that Hill's lawyers were still seeking a resolution to the charges.
The Lakers were the third team Hill played for in his short career and he would like to put down roots. Bradbury says Hill feels a certain degree of loyalty toward the Lakers after being featured by Brown late in the season and experiencing his first taste of the postseason.
"It’s definitely one of, if not the best organization in the league. I had a great time here with the short time I was here. The staff, the players, everybody. I enjoyed it," Hill told reporters after his exit interview with Brown and general manager Mitch Kupchak last month. "I'm definitely looking forward to, if possible, more to come. ... It definitely would be great (to stay). I hate moving."
While the Lakers should be considered the favorites for Hill to sign with, being an unrestricted free agent, he will certainly field other offers before making a decision. The Minnesota Timberwolves are one of the other teams that could take a long look at Hill, according to a league source.
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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