Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here at the Tribune Thursday morning after Suns beat writer Jerry Brown reported the team had signed free agent forward Grant Hill to a two-year deal.
“Here we go again, another Arizona sports team picking up a 'BIG NAME’ that is old and close to retirement,” wrote a fan in a post on eastvalleytribune.com. “Remember how well Emmitt Smith worked out, Brett Hull and getting Randy Johnson back after he’s pretty much done? When are we gonna (step) up and pick up some real talent to help our teams out?”
What were Suns fans expecting? A run at Rashard Lewis? Kevin Garnett? The pie-in-the-sky Kobe Bryant deal? Michael Jordan circa 1992?
It’s time to face fiscal reality.
The Suns were between $7 million and $8 million over the salary cap before signing Hill, who will make $1.83 million this season. Suns owner Robert Sarver isn’t cheap, as some fans have suggested. He isn’t stupid, either.
The Suns now have the third-highest payroll in the league and the second highest when you factor in the luxury tax.
With that in mind, and with Kurt Thomas’ $8.1 million salary still here, there weren’t a whole lot of options available to the front office.
Yes, Hill is approaching his 35th birthday, but he averaged 31 minutes and 14.4 points per game last year.
He’s a good fit for the Suns’ system. He’s cheaper than James Jones, and while he’s not as good a defender, he’s smart, versatile and can handle the ball a whole lot better than Jones.
That latter fact should help relieve pressure on Steve Nash, with both Hill and Boris Diaw able to create plays when Nash isn’t on the floor.
Don’t be surprised to see a backcourt of Hill and Leandro Barbosa next season that enables Barbosa to slide to his more natural shooting guard spot while Hill runs the offense in the halfcourt.
When the Suns fell to San Antonio in a controversial six-game Western Conference semifinal in May, some within the organization felt the team had given in to San Antonio’s style of play rather than imposing its own will.
Hill’s signing is a clear indication that won’t happen again, whether Thomas stays or not.
His presence could even enable the team to peddle Diaw if it can’t shed the cumbersome contracts of Thomas and Marcus Banks.
And there’s another windfall from this signing: Hill’s long-standing reputation as a class act.
Chemistry problems with some of the Suns’ bench players — Banks and Jumaine Jones in particular — were just as distracting in the locker room as any of Amaré Stoudemire’s foibles last season. The Suns believe Hill will foster an atmosphere of professionalism and accountability.
And don’t forget this: The guy signed for less than he could have received from other teams (as many as 15 clubs called his agent). It’s obvious where his priorities lie.
The bottom line: The Suns improved a roster that came within an eyelash — and maybe an infamous David Stern decision — of winning its first NBA title.
If his ankle and body don’t hold out, maybe he can use his skills as an accomplished pianist to rev up the crowd during intermissions.