Jordan Hill appears primed for improvement as he receives more minutes from Mike D'Antoni. While many of the other high profile rookies have been strutting their stuff since the beginning of the season , and are now starting to show some wear, Hill is just getting started. Hill, who D'Antoni identified during the 2006-07 season when Hill was at Arizona and D'Antoni with the Suns, has gotten stronger and is playing with good energy in limited minutes off the bench. A very positive Jordan Hill, recently spoke to Hoopsworld about his rookie year and his aspiration to be as good as Amare"Studmuffin" Stoudemire.
Before Jordan Hill had dreadlocks or an NBA contract, he had a goofy grin, short hair, and a dorm room in Tucson. As freshman at Arizona, Hill was developing his own game under a revolving door of head coaches; two hours north on the I-10, then-Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni had taken 6-10 power forward Amar'e Stoudemire, moved him to center, and revived the most basic offensive play in basketball, the pick and roll.
"(I watched) all the time," Hill said of the 2006-2007 Phoenix Suns. "It was right down the way. (I) went to a few games. The offense was something I liked. They were running the floor, picking and rolling, picking and popping. That's something I enjoy doing."
Utilizing Steve Nash's precise bounce passes, D'Antoni built his offense on the pick and roll. The Suns were leading the NBA in scoring and offensive efficiency in large part because of opposing centers' inability to defend the quicker Stoudemire.
"Stoudemire is one of the guys I grew up looking at - him and (Kevin Garnett)," said Hill. "Some people might compare me to him a little, but Amar'e is just an athletic beast. When he gets the ball in the post, he slows down, sees what he's got and he just goes to work.
"He likes to pick and roll," Hill continued. "The pick and roll with him and Nash is unstoppable."
Assistant coach Herb Williams sees Jordan Hill as a work in progress with great potential as they work to develop his mid-range shot. However, both Williams and Hill know that the rook's success in the league will depend on a good point guard.
Regarding the current point guard, the rookie says all the right things.
"We try to teach him how to pick and how to roll the way we do it as opposed to the way they try and do it in college," said Knicks assistant and 18-year NBA veteran Herb Williams. "What we're trying to do is to actually get the guy to chase the guard. Once we can get the defensive guard to chase the guard, then the big has to engage and then the big that's rolling, most of the time, is open." Once open, a new obstacle emerges: making the open shot. That's why Hill has gone the extra mile to work on his mid-range jump shot. "He's definitely shown the ability to hit that jump shot,"
"You've got to have a good point guard to do the pick and roll – a point guard like Chris Duhon," said Hill. "He's a pass-first guard. He'll get the ball into a small opening. And D-Lee, he's got good hands to pick it up and go. They worked really hard together to get that down pat. "I can score," Hill continued. "My defense is getting there. I just have to wait for my time. Anything can happen. Every time I'm in practice I just go hard and don't stop. I know my time is going to come. It came, so I just have to keep going."
The potential and the desire to learn are clearly there. The issue for the Knicks however is whether they will be the ones to benefit from his development over the next few years. Unfortunately, the Knicks were unable to benefit from the growth of Channing Frye who is now a starter with three point power in Phoenix. Isiah was clearly not the right coach with the right system for Frye. D'Antoni has not proven to be the right coach for any big man not as mobile and strong as Stoudemire. Here, he runs through big men like a speed boat in a pond -- his work with the likes of Eddie Curry, Chris Wilcox, Darko Milicic has always ended before it started,
So we wonder, will Hill reach his full potential as a Knick under D'Antoni or will he wind up being a star for some other team, perhaps one coached by D'Antoni?