When news broke last Thursday that long-time Laker favorite Derek Fisher was traded to Houston, there was a sudden shock in the Laker fanbase. Yes, Fisher’s age and diminishing contributions involving statistics were a huge point of concern for the Lakers’ overall performance, especially as it comes time for the playoffs to begin. Further, the L.A. and basketball media have been discussing the need for the organization to solve the Lakers’ point guard weakness.
However, when Ramon Sessions was acquired, Laker fans sighed in pure relief. But before fans had the opportunity to celebrate the Sessions deal, fans were left in remorse when they heard Fisher was leaving town. My assumption and the majority of the fans’ assumption was that Fisher would end his career as a Laker. Despite his shortcomings on the court this season, Fish was and still is one of the most beloved Lakers of all-time.
Yet, one of the best things about basketball and all sports is that the sport continues, the game will still go on and the players and the fans move on simply by playing or watching the game.
The Lakers received power forward and center Jordan Hill in return of the Houston trade. Hill was drafted as the eighth overall pick to the Knicks in 2009 as a junior from the University of Arizona. Hill averaged 12.5 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per game during his college career. According to the NBA.com’s draft prospect report, Hill’s strengths included: “Live body who gets off the floor quickly. Can slip through defense with his dribble. Creates scoring opportunities. Good shooting touch. Tracks down caroms out of his rebounding position. Productive scorer and rebounder who hasn’t maxed out his potential yet.”
Per the NBA.com, during his senior year at U of A, Hill “became the first Wildcat to average in double figures in both scoring (18.3) and rebounding (11.0) in the same season in 30 years. Set a school single-season record for rebounds in a season (375). Finished as the Pac-10 leader in double-doubles (20), ranked second in rebounding and blocked shots (1.7), and third in scoring. Set a career-high with 30 points to go with 18 rebounds vs. Houston. Posted 27 points and 11 rebounds at Washington. Registered a career-high 22 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive end, vs. UAB. Tallied 25 points, 14 rebounds and a career-high six blocks vs. San Diego State.”
During his 32 game season with the Houston Rockets this year, Hill averaged 5 points on 50 percent shooting and 4.8 rebounds in 14.7 minutes of action. According to the Los Angeles Times, since making the transition and being cleared to play on Sunday for the Lakers, “he has spent the last few days trying to learn plays while watching film and standing on the sideline in practice. There was a familiar face on the practice court in Lakers forward Devin Ebanks, a former prep school teammate of Hill’s at The Patterson School in Lenoir, N.C.”
Studying and learning the team’s system from the bench may last longer than Hill would hope for. As Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times reported, Mike Brown stated “[Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts] are two veteran guys in front of [Jordan Hill], so it’s not as easy to just say, ‘Hey, you know what, Josh and Troy, you guys played well for us but we’ve got this new young guy coming in so he’s going to play in front of you.'”
However, with rotations still changing under Mike Brown, it may take a while to figure out where Hill fits within the team in order to produce the best results. Brown’s indecision on when and how to play Josh McRoberts may foreshadow how Hill will be utilized off the bench. Hill understands that he is a role player who will have the responsibility of doing the “dirty work” for the team, and he seems eager to do so.
While I understand Mike Brown’s loyalty to Murphy and McRoberts, the team will not know if and how Hill impacts the line-up and the bench until he is given a reasonable chance to do so. Playing him in games will be the best and most effective way to test this experiment. Then, we will know if Hill’s presence and contribution improves the team. Improving the team and producing the best product is what Mike Brown should be concerned about. After all, that is his job.