Grant Hill undergoes knee operation, playoff push gets harder

PHOENIX — Phoenix Suns forward Grant Hill successfully underwent right knee surgery on Friday morning, repairing what the team called a “medial meniscus tear” that was discovered during an MRI on Thursday.

In a release, the Suns said they expect Phoenix’s defensive stopper and starting small forward to return before season’s end. Head coach Alvin Gentry said he expects Hill to be out at least two weeks, and his return depends on how Hill feels and how well the rehabilitation goes.

“The one thing we can’t do is feel sorry for ourselves because nobody else is going to feel sorry for us,” Gentry said. “What we’ve got to do is understand obviously Grant was an integral part of our team on the offense and the defensive end.

“If we get him back, great. But we can’t depend on that,” Gentry added. “We’ve got to depend on whoever we have right here. That’s the message I’ve got to deliver to the team. The message to the team has to be, ‘which one of you guys has to step up?'”

Paul Coro first reported the extent of the knee problem last night, and it’s the same knee that was operated on shortly before the Suns’ training camp began. Here’s how it was injured, according to Coro:

Hill, the league’s second oldest player by a day at age 39, said Wednesday that his right knee first began bothering him two weeks ago when he took a hit to the inside of the joint, where the tear is located. On Sunday, Hill said it worsened when he took a charge against Cleveland and eventually left the game. He was hopeful to return but his lateral movement remained limited before Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s games and he was held out each time.

Shannon Brown will continue on as Hill’s replacement in the starting lineup, and Gentry said little-used forward Josh Childress and Ronnie Price will see increased minutes as the Suns forge on without their co-captain.

Of course, the injury does more than take away Phoenix’s best perimeter defender and a player that is perhaps the team’s lone mid-range threat on the offensive end. Moving Brown into the starting lineup has taken away the team’s major bench scoring threat, and it also gives the starting unit less flexibility defensively, said Gentry, who’ll be charged with tinkering with matchups that would’ve been no-brainers if Hill were available.

And all in all, the Suns won’t be sitting around and waiting for Hill to return.

If they hope to make the playoffs somebody will have to step up, but considering the all-too-well known fact that the roster is already aching to get efficient and consistent production from anyone other than Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat, Phoenix faces a very steep uphill battle.

“It’s going to be tough,” Nash said. “We kind of need everything to go exactly our way these last few weeks. We just need to be really tough physically, mentally and be together.”

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