MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Even if he obviously preferred to stay out on the floor, Lakers forward Jordan Hill didn’t question Mike D’Antoni’s decision one bit to play him only four minutes in the Lakers’ 106-98 loss Friday to the Memphis Grizzlies.
“He’s going to do what he feels is right,” Hill said. “He’s going to do what he feels will win games. I respect him for that.”
That didn’t happen.
The Lakers (6-7) still lost two consecutive games and fell 1-2 since D’Antoni took over head-coaching duties. Nonetheless, D’Antoni had a clear thought process on sitting Hill for the last three quarters after averaging 6.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in 15.7 minutes this season. Lakers reserve forward Antawn Jamison scored a career-high 14 points. Meanwhile, Memphis relentlessly limited both Dwight Howard (seven points) and Pau Gasol (six points). Hence, the need for the Lakers to feature quicker and superior outside shooters.
“We needed to change something up,” D’Antoni said. “Antawn went off and that’s what will happen. You give guys chances in this league to earn a spot and earn some minutes. That’s what happens to you.”
The strategy nearly worked.
The Lakers opened the second quarter going on a 10-0 run, which featured Jamison making a putback and a three-pointer. Once the Lakers cut Memphis lead to 34-28 with 8:58 remaining, reserve guard Chris Duhon looked toward press row and proudly shouted “second unit.”
The Lakers couldn’t maintain the momentum, though. Neither could they have three consecutive three-pointers from Jodie Meeks and Duhon reduced the Grizzlies’ cushion to 82-82 with 9:07 remaining.
“Mike felt like he needed keep me out and needed to sit me,” Hill said. “We came back. We were down a big deficit and we came back when I was on the bench. It was a good idea.”
But will this strategy stay for long?
Interestingly enough, Hill opened his career with the New York Knicks under D’Antoni in a somewhat precarious position. After averaging only four points in 25 minutes through 24 games in New York at the beginning of the 2008-9 season, Hill was then traded to the Houston Rockets with Jared Jefferies before the trade deadline as part of a three-team deal that resulted in the Rockets’ Tracy McGrady going to the Knicks.
Hill then told the Houston Chronicle, “Coach D’Antoni, he relies on his veterans more than rookies.” D’Antoni then responded to the New York Post, “I don’t like to play bad rookies.”
Does Hill believe D’Antoni is doing the same thing to him with the Lakers?
“I hope not. I don’t think so,” Hill said. “I just have to go out there and keep working.”
After all, Hill had played 17 minutes during D’Antoni’s first two games as the Lakers’ coach. Still, Hill conceded
D’Antoni’s style of small ball does mitigate some of his effectiveness.
“Being spaced out keeps me away from offensive rebounds,” Hill said. “But it’s a great offense for definitely scoring. I just have to go out there and give a lot of energy, just go out there and play.”
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