Anytime Jordan Hill has stepped foot in a gym near his Atlanta residence this summer, the visual images starkly contrast with what made him a pleasant surprise for the Lakers through the past two seasons.
Instead of perfecting his post moves, Hill takes at least 1,000 jump shots per day. Instead of performing Mikan drills close to the basket, Hill often participates in shooting contests with reserve shooting guard Jodie Meeks. Instead of honing in on his rebounding, Hill’s paying extra attention to the ball handling.
All that work led Hill making one unexpected evaluation surrounding his outside shooting stroke.
“I have a lot more confidence,” Hill said in a phone interview with this newspaper. “I feel I’m a good shooter now.”
As Hill enters the 2013-14 season as a key reserve and even a possible starter, how he finds that balance between expanding his game and playing to his strengths could play a huge part in dictating his success or failure.
Before suffering a torn labrum in his left hip that required surgery and kept him out for 53 games last season, Hill became a focal part of the Lakers’ bench namely by providing endless energy on defense, rebounding and hustle plays. Such a staple earned him a role in his first season with the Lakers two years ago after they initially considered him nothing more than a throw-in to allow them to trade Derek Fisher to the Houston Rockets both to save salary and trim their backcourt. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni sat Hill for three consecutive games last December, bringing a familiar reminder how he played a similarly limited role under him during his rookie season four years ago with the New York Knicks.
Hill eventually earned playing time by sticking to his strengths on defense, rebounding and energy. The Lakers expect Hill to have a strong role this season, too. But it came with a caveat. Hill said both D’Antoni and Kobe Bryant in separate instances instructed him this offseason to work on his mid-range jumper.
How does Hill prevent his increased outside shooting from diluting the qualities that earned him such a prominent role on the Lakers’ bench in the first place?
“I’m still going to do what I’m going to do,” said Hill, who averaged a career-high 6.7 points and career-high 5.7 rebounds in 15.8 minutes last season through 29 regular-season games. “Provide energy, play defense, rebound. That’s my game. That’s not going to change. I just want to be able to have more options and have something that the team can rely on. It’s all about just trying to expand my game.”
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