The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

81° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Climbing the Hill

The Phoenix Suns beat the Houston Rockets 116-106 Sunday night at US Airways Center in Phoenix. The game featured three Wildcat basketball alumni with Houstons Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, and the Suns Channing Frye getting playing time. (Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat)
Mike Christy
The Phoenix Suns beat the Houston Rockets 116-106 Sunday night at US Airways Center in Phoenix. The game featured three Wildcat basketball alumni with Houston’s Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger, and the Suns’ Channing Frye getting playing time. (Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat)

PHOENIX — When southern-bred Jordan Hill was traded from the New York Knicks to the Houston Rockets in mid-February, the former Arizona basketball forward wasn’t flustered — he knows the ways of NBA business.And he welcomed the change.

The fast-paced New York environment didn’t fit Hill, who grew up in Georgia and the Carolinas.

He also struggled to earn playing time under Knicks’ head coach Mike D’Antoni, who gave the team’s No. 8 draft pick more DNPs than opportunities. Hill only played twice for longer than 15 minutes during his tenure with the Knicks.

“”It was (frustrating), especially since it was going downhill anyway,”” Hill said of his time in the Big Apple. “”New York wasn’t winning. I don’t know what was going on, I really don’t.””

After the trade, Hill criticized the Knicks’ coach for not playing rookies. D’Antoni responded to the media that he didn’t play “”bad rookies.”” A slight media spar ensued, but Hill has put the debacle in the past.

“”My job is to just play basketball,”” Hill said during the Rockets 116-106 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday. “”If anyone criticizes me, just let them do it. It’s their opinion. My job is just to get better.””

And as a Rocket, he has.

Under head coach Rick Adelman, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound forward averages 7.3 points and 5.7 rebounds in 19 games since the beginning of March. Against the Suns, Hill found his greatest success on the glass, grabbing nine boards in 18 minutes.

While he hasn’t yet developed into a go-to bench player, the former Wildcat has shown flashes of his immense potential on the court.

“”He’s been a bright spot for us,”” Adelman said. “”When we made the trade, we really didn’t know him. You never know a person until you get him.””

Within a few weeks, playing alongside former Arizona wing Chase Budinger, Hill began to earn Adelman’s trust. Through 28 games with the Rockets, the rookie has played for longer than 15 minutes in 13 separate games.

Experience has been the key to his growth.

“”The biggest thing, like all rookies, is you’ve got to play,”” said Suns general manager and former Arizona guard Steve Kerr. “”It’s opportunity in this league.””

But there’s still a learning curve.

The rookie took a few bumps and bruises from recent NBA Western Conference Player of the Month winner Amar’e Stoudemire, the physical Suns all-star. He even found himself on the losing end of a poster-quality Stoudemire dunk.

Defensive improvement is the biggest issue for Hill at this point.

“”His whole thing is going to be how consistent he is,”” Adelman said. “”We just want him to be consistent in figuring out how to defend. Sometimes, I think the game goes too fast for him, and he gets out of position.””

For the athletic big man, being a spark plug off the bench has given him and his coaches more confidence heading into next year, since the Rockets will miss the postseason.

Hill’s success has also helped put his stint in New York further into the past.

“”You never know what’s going to happen,”” Hill said. “”I just wanted to keep playing basketball. You can’t decide what coach you want to play for or who you want to be your coach.

“”You just have to go out there, continue to play basketball,”” he added. “”Don’t let nothing discourage you in doing things you want to do.””

More to Discover
Activate Search