AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) -- Nervously shuffling his feet, Grant
Hill raised his hand to acknowledge the cheers he didn't expect.
Nearly five years after he left, Hill was welcomed back to The
Palace with a standing ovation -- and then the Detroit Pistons kept
their fans cheering.
Richard Hamilton scored 26 points, and the Pistons held on to
beat the Orlando Magic 101-94 Friday night in Hill's first game at
his previous NBA home.
"I wasn't sure I would ever get back here to play," said Hill,
who barely played in his first four seasons with the Magic because
of injuries. "I was more nervous than I have been in 30-odd games
"It was kind of hard to concentrate, not to make excuses, but
it was weird. It was also probably the best feeling I've had after
Hill scored 17 points, many on mid-range jumpers just like the
shots he made as a Pistons star during his first six seasons.
Orlando's Steve Francis had 31 and rookie reserve Jameer Nelson
The Pistons took their first lead late in the second quarter
with a 10-0 run and led by as many as 17 in the third. They were
ahead by double digits for much of the fourth quarter, but Orlando
pulled within three points twice in the final 35 seconds.
"Detroit made the plays down the stretch. That's why they are
the champions," Orlando coach Johnny Davis said.
With a season-high four game winning streak and nine victories
in 11 games, Detroit trails Central Divison-leading Cleveland by
just a half-game.
Many debated whether Hill would be cheered or booed in his first
game on the road against the Pistons since he departed following
the 1999-2000 season.
He was the first Magic starter introduced and was given a
rousing, standing ovation, with just a small smattering of boos.
"I was shocked," Hill said.
After raising his hand, Hill said he motioned toward the
public-address announcer to move on.
"I was clapping as hard as anybody," Billups said. "It's
great to see him back healthy and playing again. It's good for the
Pistons fans were not happy when Hill wanted to leave, but
apparently time, his comeback from injuries and last year's NBA
title tempered their bitterness. Hill played in his 34th game this
season after playing just 47 in his first four seasons with the
Magic because of ankle and foot problems.
Perhaps Pistons fans also figured out that Hill's departure
helped Detroit win its third championship.
"Time eventually heals wounds," Hill said. "I'm very thankful
they appreciated the six years I was here."
When Hill told former teammate Joe Dumars, Pistons president of
basketball operations, that he wanted to sign with the Magic as a
free agent, Dumars secured commitments from Ben Wallace and Chucky
Atkins and arranged a sign-and-trade deal.
Wallace has become one of the most popular athletes in Michigan
and Atkins helped the Pistons land Rasheed Wallace last season in a
three-team deal, which turned a good team into a champion.
"I think there's closure now, on both sides," Hill said.
Doug Christie was in an Orlando uniform for the first time
since being acquired in a trade from Sacramento, but didn't play.
... Hill averaged a career-high 25.8 points along with 6.6 rebounds
and 5.2 assists in his last season with the Pistons. ... Christie
and his wife, Jackie, flew from Sacramento to Detroit on Friday and
arrived at the arena together. Both said they are close to
finishing a deal with VH-1 for the cable channel to produce a
reality show featuring them. ...The Magic said Stacey Augmon was
not with the team because of personal reasons. ... The Pistons
signed Anthony Goldwire to another 10-day contract Friday. He
signed his first with the team on Jan. 5. ... Detroit played its
first of four games in a five-day span, including a matchup on
Monday afternoon against Phoenix.