- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2005

These would appear to be the longest days and nights of Grant Hill’s comeback season.

His Orlando Magic have lost 10 of their last 11 games to fall below .500, prompting the team to fire coach Johnny Davis during that stretch.

His teammates aren’t dealing well with the losing. Steve Francis was suspended for three games for kicking a photographer, Stacey Augmon was suspended for one game for squirting lotion on reporters and DeShawn Stevenson was fined $7,500 for kicking a ball into the stands.

“Adversity builds character,” Hill said after icing his left shin after another loss. “Adversity reveals character.”

The 6-foot-8 forward speaks as the NBA’s foremost authority on adversity.

The Reston native is coming off four seasons of ankle surgeries, false starts and setbacks. In 2003, after the most recent surgery on his left ankle, he nearly died from a staph infection. During that four-season span, he played in just 47 games.

So to call this season — Hill’s first full one since 1999-2000 — a comeback would be like calling the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground.

Bill Walton also came back after four seasons of injury abyss, but he returned as a great sixth man, not an All-Star.

Hill’s season has been more impressive — and unprecedented.

He is averaging 19.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.3 assists and was voted as an All-Star starter by the fans in February. But most impressive, he has missed just five games.

This Grant Hill is equipped with the same all-court skills as before, but he has added a new perspective.

“Tonight was a tough loss, but I’m playing,” he said. “I’m out there. I have the feeling of some good wins and some tough losses. That’s something I value and appreciate because I’m back.”

On the other side of the locker room, Dwight Howard, at 19 the most impressionable of Hill’s teammates, was impressed with the 32-year-old.

“I’m glad he came back,” he said. “It shows his heart and how hard he’s worked at it. I’m happy to be a part of his season.”

Hill was quick to point out he’s icing his shin and not the most infamous ankle in sports. He was inadvertently kicked earlier this month against the Sacramento Kings.

That’s the beauty of Hill’s season. He is just like any other player, dealing with aches and pains, losing streaks and a fired coach.

On second thought, these might be the best days and nights of Hill’s comeback season.

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