NEW YORK – Grant Hill was sitting on the bench, minding his own business, watching New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony going off on the Clippers just like everyone else at Madison Square Garden for most of Sunday afternoon.
Then Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro summoned Hill from the bench with 3:21 remaining in the third quarter – and with Anthony sitting on 38 points – and asked him to do something about it.
That’s a tall order for anyone, let alone a 40-year-old veteran like Hill, whose battled injury issues all year as he tries to establish a role with the Clippers.
Only Hill isn’t your regular 40-year-old, and as the Clippers discovered Sunday he still has enough savvy and guile to be a factor.
With Hill pulling out every trick in the book, he hounded, harassed and denied Anthony the remainder of the game. The result: Antony took just two more shots and scored only four more points as Hill and the Clippers got things under control in a 102-88 victory.
Afterward, his impressed teammates marveled at Hill’s contribution.
“I tell him all the time I will not be 40 years old and playing in this league,” Clippers guard Chris Paul said. “I wish I could but I can’t. And it just shows so much about Grant, just his heart and his determination and always staying ready.”
Hill understood the nearly impossible challenge of stopping Anthony, but he relied on past experiences and veteran guile to try and disrupt him as much as possible.
“You just try to do things to make it difficult and you have to have selective memory because he hits shots,” Hill said “You have to be able to move onto the next play. He’s a great player and I enjoy the challenge.”
It’s nothing unusual for Hill, whose spent his entire career typically drawing the opponent’s best scorer.
His teammates are well aware, having gone against him enough over the years to understand how many problems he creates. When Hill was in Phoenix he’d typically guard Paul. He did the same with Chauncey Billups as well.
“Steve Nash never guarded me. Grant Hill did,” Paul remembered, “And Chauncey told me when he was in Denver Grant did a great job on him.
“He’s just smart. He never rests. He’s just always bothering you and messing with you,” Paul continued. “He understands how you can’t give a guy – especially the best scorer in the league – a steady diet of the same defense.”