It has been 10 weeks since George Hill last dribbled a basketball in a game. The veteran guard came over to the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade deadline deal, a lights-out shooter thought to put them over the championship hump.
The team knew it would be a slow process getting him back into basketball shape, but there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel. Hill joined the Sixers on April 3 — non-contact work, no game action — and has been getting to know his new teammates. While the team won’t put a timetable on his return from thumb surgery, the former Oklahoma City Thunder player promised he’d be back before the playoffs. And “sooner than expected.”
“No one knows the timetable yet,” Hill told reporters on Thursday. “But I will be back this season, for sure. I will be back before playoffs, for sure. So just getting everything going, you know, once you shut your body down for three months or so, not just your finger but you got to make sure the whole car is up to date — with your Achilles, your ankle, your legs, and things like that.”
Hill doesn’t need much time to acclimate. He’s a proven commodity, a 15-year veteran who has hit clutch shots in the playoffs. But the Sixers see him as a long-term piece and plan to sign him to an extension after the season. They don’t want their new car to break down before it hits the track.
— Dave Uram (@MrUram) April 8, 2021
“I’ve been blessed enough to come here and not be rushed back,” Hill said. “I think the team is doing a great job right there, so it kind of gives you a cushion to make sure it’s right and back into rhythm. But I think I’ve shown a lot of progress the past four or five days I’ve been here, with some of the moving and things like that, so looking forward to getting back out there as soon as I can.”
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Hand Injury Occurred in Uncommon Area
Hill underwent thumb surgery on Feb. 2 to repair a mallet on the thumb of his shooting hand, an injury that occurs when the tendon that straightens the finger is damaged. It’s an ailment sometimes referred to as “baseball finger” and something Sixers head coach Doc Rivers dealt with during his playing days.
George Hill says he just got his cast off a week and a half ago. He says the rare thing is that it's a mallet on the thumb and not on the finger (finger is the norm for that injury). He's looking forward to getting back on the court "real soon." #Sixers #HereTheyCome
— Michael Greger (@mike_greger) April 8, 2021
While the procedure was deemed “minor” in scope, it is a tough one to heal from. Hill has been listening to team doctors and doing rehab with Philly’s physical trainers. He got his cast off about a week and a half ago, but there’s one abnormality with his version of the injury.
“The rare thing is that it’s a mallet on the thumb rather than on the finger,” Hill said, “so it’s an uncommon area that normally you don’t get a mallet on. I think from me coming in the last couple of days until now, the progress has been tremendous and it’s really been going well so it’s going to be sooner than expected.”
Starting Role Not Promised to Hill
The way Danny Green and Seth Curry have been playing, it’s hard to see Hill coming in and snaking a starting spot. He’ll likely be used in spurts as a deadly sniper off the bench. Hill was shooting 38.6% from deep for the Thunder in 26.4 minutes per game, one year after leading the NBA in three-point percentage (46%). He knows what he can bring to the Sixers.
“I think the one thing they were missing was outside shooting — outside of Danny [Green] and a couple of other guys,” Hill said. “I’m just trying to fill that void, fill that missing piece for a championship.”
Didn't know it at the time, but this game 3 had a G7 like impact on 2019 playoffs. For my money, if MIL won this double OT game, go up 3-0 on TOR, they wind up winning the title. George Hill sure did his part that night. 24 pts, 7-9 fg, 3/4 from 3. Clutch FTs #Sixers got a good 1 pic.twitter.com/dVsDfhX3Px
— DaveEarly (@DavidEarly) April 6, 2021
Interestingly, Hill and Green had talked about teaming up over the summer when they were working out together down in San Antonio. The 15-year veteran knew his playoff experience could be a selling point for a Sixers’ squad in win-now mode. Hill has played in 127 postseason games while shooting 45.3% from deep for his career.
“One of my stomping grounds was here,” Hill said, referring to Philadelphia. “If I can go to a couple of places this is one of my choices. The reason why is I felt we had a good enough team here to compete for a championship. First of all, I think we have a great coach and coaching staff to get us there.”
As far as what Hill’s role may be down the stretch … Starting five. First guy off the bench. Last guy off the bench. It doesn’t matter.
“That’s up to the coaches and the staff, if they want me starting or if they want me coming off the bench,” Hill said. “But any role they give me I’m going to embrace with open arms, no matter if it’s 30 minutes or 15 minutes. I’m going to go out there and play hard and compete and try and help us win games.”
— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) April 6, 2021