Sunday, March 23, 2003

Hill won't give up despite surgeries

NBA insider: Robinson takes issue with players' anti-war chatter

Enquirer news services

Point guard Terrell Brandon, injured and no longer able to play, hangs around Minnesota so he can collect the full $22 million left on his contract.

Grant Hill hangs around Orlando hoping to play out the rest of his contract. His doctor, James Nunley, said Hill should play again despite the trauma of this fourth and most invasive procedure.

"We found no reason why Grant Hill will not be able to play basketball again for the Orlando Magic," Nunley said.

"His bone had good strength and good blood supply, and we felt good about how the surgery proceeded. Although I feel like he will play basketball again, there is no time frame at the present to when he will be able to return to play."

In the surgery, Nunley looked at Hill's troublesome ankle bone and decided to remove three screws, replace them and connect the new screws to a steel plate.

He also removed some bone graft material from a previous surgery and added a genetically engineered material, which helps make bone form, to assist with the healing.

Then, Nunley broke Hill's left heel and realigned his left leg, which is believed to be the root of these ankle problems.

Hill will remain in the hospital for a few days before returning to Orlando.

Nunley will decide later how long before Hill can put weight on the ankle.

SMITH RIDING BENCH: The Spurs may be winning, but it's still the most difficult season of Steve Smith's 12-year career. The former Hawk, who may want to close his career in Atlanta next season, rarely plays in San Antonio. His court time seems to come only when someone gets in foul trouble or is injured.

"I've never gone through anything like this," Smith said. "Ever. I don't like it, and the initial timing of it was real hard on me. It still is."

Smith doesn't feel his career should be over. After he dunked against the Boston Celtics, two-time teammate Grant Long (Miami, Atlanta) told him, "Steve! I haven't seen you jump like that in a long time."

HEAT NO EASY WASH: Know what really bugs Heat coach Pat Riley about two years of incessant losing?

"Walking in and knowing that we're playing against the Philadelphia 76ers, and we are not playing for a divisional title, we're not playing for playoff position," Riley said.

Asked if he plans on washing away this season by putting together a good year next season, Riley said:

"I tried to do it this year, wash away last year. Now I've got to wash away two years. That's a lot of soap."

VAN GUNDY NETS LOOK? The historic link between former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy and Nets chief Lou Lamoriello could put Byron Scott out of a job in New Jersey, given that president and general manager Rod Thorn isn't the only one calling the shots at the Meadowlands.

Lamoriello, who oversees the Nets and Devils, is famous for his sharp ax, firing three coaches in three years, including one who was in first place and one who had won the Stanley Cup.

Lamoriello and Van Gundy worked together at Providence in the mid-80s when Van Gundy was an aide and Lamoriello was athletics director.

WAR TALK: It has been 14 years since David Robinson regularly wore his Navy dress blues with the butter bar, the solid gold bar signifying his rank as an ensign. Since then, his professional uniform of choice has been the jersey and shorts of the San Antonio Spurs.

But that doesn't mean Robinson has stopped defending his country. Especially when there's a war going on and he hears his fellow NBA players toss out anti-war sentiments and bash the guy in charge.

Following an extended workout session Thursday prior to sitting out the Spurs' 112-110 overtime win against the Mavericks with a back problem, Robinson was asked about anti-war comments made by Mavericks Steve Nash and University of Cincinnati product Nick Van Exel.

Not surprisingly, Robinson went strong to the hoop.

"I think they obviously have no recollection of history and how this country was formed," Robinson said. "You've got 35 other countries that are supporting us. Obviously, somebody thinks this is the right thing to do. I mean, it's not like we're out there by ourselves.

"If it's an embarrassment to them, maybe they should be in a different country. This is America; we're supposed to be proud of the guys we elected and put into office.

"It isn't like Saddam Hussein's in office and we've got to put up with what they're doing. All of us have a part in what's going on. If they're not proud of it, then they probably ought to think about being in another place."

Although it was the musical group the Dixie Chicks - not Nash or Van Exel - that came under criticism after saying it was embarrassed by President Bush, several Mavericks players have been among the most vocal athletes in giving a thumbs-down to the decision to go to war.

Nash wore his "No War. Shoot for Peace" T-shirt at the NBA All-Star Game. Tariq Abdul-Wahad, the French-born Muslim, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he didn't think the war was justified. Evan Eschmeyer voiced his displeasure with Bush's presidency even before the war began.

And then Van Exel, on his local radio show this week, said that while "nobody is dissing America," the Mavericks players generally disagreed with Bush's decision.

He added: "The Americans on the team, we think Bush is giving the American people a bad name."

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