As he sat by his locker, Jordan Hill tried everything to force himself to remain positive.
Hill repeatedly smiled as he talked about having season-ending surgery on his left hip. He joked he’ll need to buy new suits since the NBA rules dictate injured players wear that when they sit on the bench. Hill refused to break down and cry when he had every right to do so.
But there’s no denying this news hit him harder than even when he suffered a torn labrum in his left hip in the second half of the Lakers’ loss Sunday to the Denver Nuggets.
“Definitely hearbroken man,” Hill said following the Lakers’ 116-101 loss Friday to the Oklahoma City Thunder at Staples Center. “I just got to get it better. I didn’t expect it, but it’s there.”
And with that, Hill must deal with some things far less joyful than providing consistent energy off the bench and somehow help the Lakers find their way at a time plenty doubt their playoff fortunes.
Although he said he will “definitely” have surgery,” Hill said he will “probably” seek a second opinion to provide clarity on his recovery timetable. Hill said doctors told him he’d remain sidelined for at least six months after an arthrogram test he had Friday showed he has loose fragments and a possible labral tear in his left hip.
“Now that I’m out for the whole season, I can’t do nothing,” Hill said. “It’s a let down. I feel like I let down my team and the fans.”
“I’m a competitor and give them that energy,” said Hill, who’s averaged 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes through 29 games I got to go out there and do it and I love doing it and take pride in doing it. I take pride in going there and helping my team out and help us get wins. Being sidelined for the rest of the season, what can you do now?”
The Lakers are asking themselves the same thing on how to absorb Hill’s long-term absence.
They’re also still without Dwight Howard (right shoulder) and Pau Gasol (concussion). Their current frontline players? Robert Sacre, whom the Lakers picked 60th overall in the 2012 NBA draft. Earl Clark, who was considered only a throw-in as part of the Howard trade this summer until this week.
“Just got to have guys step up and play well,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “Clark’s stepped up and been playing extremely well for us. He’s going to have to step in and contribute. I’m just more disappointed for Jordan. He’s really worked hard. He played well for us last year, he’s been playing well for us this year. I’m just really disappointed for him.”
Bryant has another reason to feel disappointed. He was part of the play that led to Hill’s injury in the Lakers’ loss Sunday to the Denver Nuggets. He said Nuggets guard Andre Miller drove baseline, prompting Bryant to guard him only to accidentally step on one of Hill’s feet. He said his hip kept moving despite standing still. Hill still played through it before receiving an MRI the following day.
“When I first got it done, I got an MRI and the doctor said you have a small tear and said it was nothing major,” Hill said. “But my hip wasn’t feeling right. It had to be something major. They wanted me to have another [exam] That’s when they found everything wrong with it.”
Then Hill let out a huge sigh. It marked a long day after Lakers trainer Gary Vitti alerted Hill at around 6 p.m. about his season-ending injury.
It also marked a long day for the Lakers (15-21), which currently sit five games behind the Portland Trail Blazers (20-16) for the eighth playoff spot.
“We just have to put it together,” Hill said. “We definitely have a lot more time and a lot more games. I know it’s hard and frustrating for all of us, but how bad do we want it. We have to do what we have to do.”
Unfortunately for Hill, he won’t have a role in that process.
“I can’t do nothing about it,” Hill said. “I just got to rehab it, take care of it and do what I got to do to get it back for the next season. I got to stay positive.”