Grant Hill’s departure leaves ‘a void that’s really tough to fill’

Hill will chase a ring as a Clipper this season. (Illustration by @JFace5)

Hill will chase a ring as a Clipper this season. (Illustration by @JFace5)

PHOENIX — Back in May, Suns PBO Lon Babby stood in front of a group of media members and said he “can’t imagine he would want to play anywhere else.”

That he, of course, was referring to Grant Hill, Babby’s long-time client who has spent the past five seasons as a member of the Phoenix Suns.

“I’d be extremely disappointed if he played somewhere else,” Babby said two and a half months ago.

Well, then Babby must be awfully bummed today after Hill reportedly committed to signing a two-year deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.

In the end, the only surprise was that Hill picked the Clippers over a more established contender like the Lakers and good friend Steve Nash. Once the Suns decided against re-signing Nash and instead embarked on a youth movement, the writing was on the wall that a 40-year-old Hill would no longer be worth a significant investment.

However, Babby has company in his disappointment as head coach Alvin Gentry has coached Hill for 10 years and raves about him every chance he gets.

“Obviously he’s been a real solid guy,” Gentry said today. “I’m very familiar with him, he’s a tremendous player. Obviously it’s a void that’s really tough to fill. It’s just one of those situations where we have to have other guys step up. Grant’s been great. He’s been great on the court, he’s been great from a defensive standpoint and obviously he’s been great in the locker room.”

Gentry said that Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley will need to step up as leaders along with newcomer Luis Scola, a player the Suns may have plucked in part to fill the leadership void left with the departures of co-captains Nash and Hill. After all, the last thing Babby wants the Suns to become is one of the “rudderless ships” he sees among so many young teams in the NBA.

While today was a tough one for the Suns’ organization to lose a consummate professional like Hill, a certain former Sun was also plenty disappointed by his decision. For those who didn’t click on the link, I’ll give you a hint.

He will share a building with Hill’s team this season despite no longer being a teammate.

Gomes an amnesty cut, Hill likely to sign for biannual exception

When the Hill deal was first reported, league sources were not yet sure whether Hill would sign as a free agent or if he would come via a sign-and-trade with the Suns.

The LA Times’ Broderick Turner reported that after the Clippers chose to amnesty forward Ryan Gomes on Tuesday night, so Hill is now expected to sign a two-year deal worth $3.87 million by accepting the team’s biannual exception.

Gomes’ $4 million salary now will not count against the Clippers’ cap.

It seems clear that the Clippers preferred to do a sign-and-trade with the Suns involving Gomes but Phoenix declined. Such a deal could have allowed Los Angeles to provide Hill with a heftier contract.

According to ShamSports, the Clippers do still have a $2.76 million trade exception from Al-Farouq Aminu in the CP3 trade if they wanted to start Hill there and send the Suns a second-rounder, but it seems Hill will be OK with the biannual exception.

Although I doubt the Suns would have wanted Hill back for his $6.5 million salary from last season, I imagine Babby and Gentry would have been thrilled to get him back for less than $2 mil a season based on his leadership alone, so I wonder whether this was a case of Hill just wanting to play for a contender.

A good problem to have

As the Suns’ roster stands now, Gentry is going to have quite the difficult task of divvying up power forward minutes between Luis Scola, Channing Frye and Markieff Morris. Michael Beasley can also play the four and Hakim Warrick is lurking on the bench, so the Suns have enough fours to field an entire lineup worth of power forwards.

To Gentry, that’s a good problem to have.

“Well, if we’re having trouble with really good players finding minutes than we’re in great shape,” he said. “So that thing usually works itself out and it plays itself out. It’s a situation where I think it will all play itself out. I think that we’ve got two players, and Channing you’ve got to understand he’s going to be out for a part of the season, so just to have those guys be able to step in there and go in I think it’s going to be a great situation, it makes it a competitive situation.”

Frye underwent offseason shoulder surgery after suffering said injury during the third to last game of the season. If Robin Lopez does not return Frye figures to earn backup center minutes, as he shined in that role in 2009-10, but his injury situation likely will require the Suns to add another center of some sort.

How Kobe’s potential early retirement affects the Suns

We all know that the 2013 pick the Lakers convey to the Suns (whichever is worse between the Lakers’ and Heat’s selection) will be at the very bottom of the draft.

The 2015 pick could be a completely different story if Kobe does in fact retire in two years when his contract expires after recently saying “it’s still probably accurate” that he will retire at age 35, a claim he first made as a rookie.

“That’s a long time to be playing,” Bryant said. “It’ll be the last year of my contract. I don’t know if I will play any longer than that. I don’t know. It’s just a possibility. It’s not something I even give it much thought to, but it’s a possibility. It could happen.”

If Kobe retires and Nash slows down as he approaches 41, that partially protected pick could become much more attractive than it appears today.

Scola’s number game

Luis Scola has always worn No. 4.

His dad used to wear No. 4 and his son does so as well when he plays basketball.

However, Marcin Gortat wears No. 4 for the Phoenix Suns so Scola will need to find a new number.

“I’ll find a number that I like, and that’s a really minor thing,” Scola said. “Right now I don’t know. I thought I might play with 11, which is the number I used when we won the Olympic gold medal, but it’s also used [by Markieff Morris]. I don’t know, I’ll have to start thinking there.”

And 1

  • Robert Sarver must be unhappy to learn that Josh Childress cleared waivers without receiving a single bid, according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Childress will now become an unrestricted free agent. If a team had placed a bid on Chilly, that amount would have cut into the $21 million payout the Suns owe him. It is telling, though, that nobody else in the league thought he was worth even a miniscule bid.
  • Former Suns GM Steve Kerr told Brad Cesmat the following on Scola: “I’m a huge fan. I think he’s a really good player. He’s an excellent passer. He’s an underrated finisher around the rim. I think the fact he and Goran Dragic know each other so well the past couple years in Houston will be a good combination.”
  • Gentry told Dan Bickley on his radio show that Dragic leaving the Suns was the best thing to happen to him so he could blossom out of Nash’s shadow.

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Tags: Channing Frye Grant Hill Kobe Bryant Luis Scola

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