ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – Grant Hill made seven NBA All-Star teams and won two college championships. He also has never been past the first round of the NBA playoffs.
Hungry for a title, Hill is leaving the Orlando Magic after seven injury-plagued years to join a perennial contender in the Phoenix Suns, his agent said Thursday.
The 34-year-old forward agreed to a two-year deal worth about $1.8 million for the first year, with a second-year player option for about $2 million, agent Lon Babby said.
“There’s no question he could’ve gotten considerably more money elsewhere, but that was not the principle,” Babby said. “I think the most important factor for him was the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to a team competing for the championship.”
Hill was considering retirement or returning to Orlando for another season. His seven-year, $93 million contract finished this season, and the Magic have used it as a flashpoint for rebuilding.
That salary-cap room was earmarked for a free-agent scorer, and Orlando agreed to spend it on Seattle SuperSonics forward Rashard Lewis, his agent said this week. Teams cannot discuss or complete deals until the signing period begins Wednesday. Citing those restrictions, the Magic and Suns declined comment Thursday.
Hill has played about only a third of Orlando’s 574 regular-season games, and made the All-Star team just once since leaving the Detroit Pistons.
This year was the first Hill finished healthy since arriving in Orlando in 2000 with an ankle injury that eventually required five operations. The Magic signed Tracy McGrady at the same time, but he left in a 2004 trade that brought in Steve Francis.
Babby said about 15 teams courted Hill, and the forward narrowed that list to five. He declined to name which other teams Hill was considering.
The Suns won 61 games this season, losing in the Western Conference semifinals to the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs. Hill will join a roster that includes two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash and All-Star Amare Stoudemire.
“I think all he was seeking was the opportunity to start,” Babby said. “It was the same promise that was made to him when he went to Duke. Nobody guarantees you anything and he wasn’t asking for guarantees.”
The Magic knew Hill had an ankle injury when they traded Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins for him in 2000, but never expected it would take so long to heal. Hill appeared in just four games his first year with the Magic, 14 the next year and 29 the year after that. He missed the entire 2003-04 season.
Hill finally regained his old form in 2004-05, averaging almost 20 points and looking like the all-purpose player Orlando thought it was getting. Even then he couldn’t stay off the injury list, missing 15 games with wrist and shin problems.
In 2005-06, it was a sports hernia and lower abdominal injuries for another 61 missed games.
The 6-foot-8 forward was written off by some as a pricey bench fixture, but others found Hill hard to dislike. He led the league in All-Star balloting in 1995 and ’96.
Hill proved again this season he could still play. The former Duke star averaged 15 points as Orlando was swept in the first-round by his former team, and just under that during the regular season. He was the Magic’s best option driving to the basket, and at times seemed the only one playing with energy despite his age.
But Hill again missed 17 regular-season games this season with a knee sprain and other minor injuries.
For his career, Hill averages 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. He played on the 1996 Olympic team that won the gold medal and on the Duke team that made three straight NCAA championship game appearances and won two consecutive titles.