Playing with a consistent level of energy has been a recurring theme in Lakerland for the past couple of seasons. While the majority of the NBA transitioned into a fast and athletic league, the Lakers continued to rely on half-court sets.
The Lakers have been called old, slow and un-atheletic (Charles Barkley most recently), which has some truth to it. This offensive utilization of the transition game and fast break plays easily impacts the level of energy in which a team performs with.
However, as Kobe Bryant recently said, “speed doesn’t win championships. Togetherness, finding a way to play that maximizes each other’s talents. It’s not about speed. It’s not about athleticism.”
Yet, there is an absolute need to install athleticism and, more importantly, energy into the lineup. This especially is true if the Lakers want to compete with other youthful teams that play with energy every night. As a bonus, energetic players tend to rub off on the teammates, as the team’s attitude and approach is heightened.
It’s both an encouraging and disconcerting thing that the Lakers’ success hinges on effort & energy level
— Mark Medina (@MedinaLakersNBA) December 29, 2012
Enter Jordan Hill. After initially being overlooked by former coach Mike Brown after the trade deadline last season, Hill proved his value as a reliable source of energy and a dependable rebounder. Initially, Hill’s points mostly stemmed from put-back opportunities from offensive rebounds. However, it was his hustle and willingness to be the “garbage man” that immediately won over the hearts of Lakers Nation.
This was why after earning a definite role on the team, it was very concerning when his minutes declined and eventually saw no playing time under the new direction of Mike D’Antoni (backs spasms played a part). As many of you know, the relationship between D’Antoni and Hill was strained during their time together in New York. Additionally, D’Antoni remarked that Hill was the odd man out and needed to adjust his game in order to work cohesively under his system.
Hill took this experience like an absolute professional. He kept his comments to the media positive and his energy and attitude never wavered. In fact, he has been using his much improved mid-range jump shot at a much higher rate under D’Antoni’s helm, which has been pleasing to the coach since it stretches the floor.
On a side note, at the very beginning of December, I watched Hill attempt and nail a couple of dozen mid-range jumpers during pre-game warmups, and asked myself why he didn’t utilize this part of his game during actual games. Doing so would give Hill and the team another weapon, which it has.
After seeing three straight DNP-CDs against Washington, Philadelphia and Charlotte and receiving just three minutes against the Knicks in New York earlier this month, it has been reassuring that Hill is once against being used in various rotations. With that said, the reuse of Jordan Hill and the increased minutes given to Metta World Peace at the four position, is forcing Antawn Jamison to be the “odd man out”, just as Hill was a couple of weeks ago.
Below are Jordan Hill’s stats in the past four games after returning from being placed out of the rotation:
Most of Lakers Nation would agree that they do not want to see Jordan Hill leave the purple and gold, which was why the news that the team may be shopping him around for a trade near the deadline was met with confusion. A player who provides energy, hustle and competitiveness at such a consistent level should be safe, right? Yes, Hill isn’t a Kobe Bryant-esque player and is limited with his offensive abilities, but it is his intangibles that he brings to the court, and off the bench, that has the ability to change the game.
As rotations become more stable in Los Angeles, it remains important to keep Hill in the rotation. Not only will the pick-and-roll game become more apparent and easier for Steve Nash and Dwight Howard as they get more playing experience with each other, but the opportunity to utilize Hill in pick-and-rolls with Nash will open up as well.
In addition, Hill’s presence remains important if and when one or both of the Lakers’ bigs (Howard/Pau Gasol) get into foul trouble early on. A perfect example of this was the recent Denver game on December 26th, when Howard was ejected for a flagrant foul early in the game. Hill recorded nine points and nine rebounds in just 13 minutes of action.
At the end of the day, Jordan Hill is simply a vital piece in the Lakers’ puzzle. He doesn’t play with flair or beauty. He plays with hustle and heart. Hill’s consistent effort and sustained improvement is what makes any Lakers fan proud to call him a Laker.