- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 19, 2001

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) All-Star Grant Hill will miss the rest of the season after undergoing a third operation on his left ankle.
The Orlando Magic forward played in 14 games this season after missing all but four games last year. The Magic signed Hill to a seven-year, $93 million contract in August 2000, hoping he and another high-priced acquisition, Tracy McGrady, could return them to title contention.
However, the team barely recovered from a slow start last year to make the playoffs, losing in the first round. And this season, Orlando has a 12-14 record.
"I'm disappointed for the fans and my teammates," Hill said in a statement yesterday. "Hopefully, this will lead me down the road to recovery. I will continue to remain optimistic as I face this latest challenge."
Magic team physician Dr. Joe Billings said Hill could resume physical activity by summer.
Hill, who was selected to the NBA All-Star team six times but didn't play in last year's game because of injury, averaged 16.8 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists this season. He led the team with five double-doubles.
He will have a bone spur removed by Dr. Mark Myerson in Baltimore today. Myerson, who performed bone-graft surgery on the ankle in January, also will check and reinforce the site of the original stress fracture.
Billings said that while Myerson removes the spur, small holes will be drilled in the bone where the original stress fracture took place. Those holes will then be filled with a protein that will reinforce the bone and quicken the healing process.
"It looks like this bone spur is causing stress to his fracture site," Billings said. "The question is, do you just take care of the spur or do you actually look at the fracture site?"
"The doctors are confident that this procedure will address the underlying cause of Grant's ankle problem and give him the best chance to get healthy," Magic general manager John Gabriel said.
Hill hasn't played since Nov. 26 and was placed on the injured list Dec. 7. The Magic have lost six of their last 11 games without Hill in the lineup.
"We all feel badly, as Grant was a big part of our plans this season," Gabriel said. "What's more important, however, is to improve the overall health of Grant's ankle joint and allow him to return."
The Magic got another dose of bad news when they learned McGrady is questionable for their game against Utah on Wednesday. McGrady, the league's fifth-leading scorer with 26 points per game, strained his back during a loss at Seattle on Sunday night.
Hill first injured his ankle late in the 1999-2000 season while with the Detroit Pistons. Despite offseason surgery, the Magic thought he was a worthwhile gamble and signed him to the maximum possible free-agent deal.
"We were very confident, we liked the X-rays that we saw, he was on schedule to full recover," Gabriel said. "[The surgery] just did not take at the end."
Gabriel said he hoped the team would rise to the challenge of winning without Hill, like it did last year.
A week after Hill's second surgery, the Magic's record stood at 14-20, a season-worst six games under .500. However, Orlando rallied to finish the season with a 29-19 kick and earned the seventh seed in the playoffs.
"This team is better for being together another year, and we feel like they'll respond just fine," Gabriel said.

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