Forward continues to rehab injured ankle

ORLANDO -- Oft-injured Orlando Magic forward Grant Hill still wants to play at some point during the 2003-04 season, despite the team's wishes that he continue his rehabilitation and target the following season for his return, the Orlando Sentinel reported Tuesday.

Hill had the most recent surgery on his ankle on March 16, and thus far, his rehabilitation has been confined to non-weight-bearing exercise, according to the paper.

Magic head coach Doc Rivers, when asked Monday if Hill could be ready sometime next season, said "He could be ? I have no idea, to be honest. He's working his butt off. I think Grant, in Grant's mind ? I think he's thinking, `I'm not finished this season.' "

Magic General Manager John Gabriel reiterated to the paper the franchise's desire for Hill to sit out the season but admitted, "I think Grant will want to try to play."

Neither Hill nor his agent, Lon Babby, returned the paper's phone calls on Monday.

The NBA turned down the Magic's request for a $4.9 million injury exception earlier this summer, also under the belief that Hill may try to play next season.

According to league sources, the Magic may put Hill through extensive workouts in game-type situations before he'd be activated. Gabriel wouldn't comment on that report, saying only "Grant's rehabilitation will be supervised," according to the paper.

Whatever Hill's timetable is, he will not start the season on Orlando's active roster, the Sentinel reports. Hill has played in just 47 games since signing a seven-year, $93 million contract as a free agent in the summer of 2000.

"This is the first year since we've had Grant that the beginning of the season hasn't started with him being healthy. This year we're going into the season not expecting Grant to play and we're moving on," Rivers said. "We're not pinning our hopes on him."