One of the most interesting questions for the post-trade deadline Sixers is what impact new addition George Hill will have.
We’ll have to wait a bit for an answer.
There’s no date set yet for Hill’s Sixers debut, though head coach Doc Rivers said Monday he’ll join the team once its six-road trip concludes. The Sixers play the Nuggets and Cavaliers before a home back-to-back Saturday and Sunday against the Timberwolves and Grizzlies, respectively.
“He’s still doing some rehab work,” Rivers said. “We want him to get through it. We’re not going to force him back or push him back. He’s been out for a good six, eight weeks. Even when he’s cleared to play, conditioning is a factor. He’ll be with us, though, once we return back from the Cleveland game.”
Hill had surgery on Feb. 2 to address a mallet injury of his right thumb. The Thunder’s press release said he’d be re-evaluated in four weeks, but he's been out well beyond that.
Rivers isn’t worried about Hill needing a lot of time to learn his new teammates and the Sixers’ system. As he noted, playing the 34-year-old isn’t an option until he’s healthy.
“There’s no choice,” Rivers said. “It’s not like we can throw him in with a cast on his arm. We have to wait for him to be healthy. But we knew that when we did the trade. George Hill doesn’t have to do a rehearsal for us to find out if he can play or not. We know exactly what he does, and he’s one of those guys that I believe you can throw in and he’ll figure it out for us. Hopefully we have a 10-game window or more that he can get acclimated with the team. But I’m very confident that he can fit in.”
Hill has overlapped with quite a few folks across the NBA during his 13-year career, including Danny Green and Sixers executive vice president of basketball operations Peter Dinwiddie. Two others are Sixers assistant coaches Dan Burke and Popeye Jones, who worked with Hill on the Pacers. Rivers said they endorsed the trade.
“(Burke) said he hated him, didn’t want him around,” Rivers joked. “It’s nice when you have guys on your staff that have coached a player you’re thinking about trading for, because you get intel that you probably wouldn’t (otherwise) get. ... They both loved him. That made it very comfortable for me to say, ‘Let’s do this deal,’ because we had two coaches on my staff that absolutely loved coaching him.”
It sounds like the other sidelined Sixer, Joel Embiid, might be available to play this weekend — at least if one is inclined to read between the lines at the end of a Rivers response to a question about rookie Paul Reed.
“Minutes have to be earned, obviously,” Rivers said. “I think (Reed has) got a fantastic future, but he’s also got Tobias Harris in front of him and Ben Simmons — pretty good players. You obviously can’t play everybody. But what I love about him is how hard he plays. He has a competitive gene that can’t be taught. He has it; it’s in him. You feel comfortable throwing him in any situation. And he may make mistakes, but he’s going to compete, and sometimes that is an edge that may take you over the top. We’ll throw him in there at times.
“Obviously, right now we’re down on big men. We have one big right now on our team. It’s funny, about a week ago we had four centers. Now we’re down to two. Without Joel, we’re down to one center and then a bunch of small guys. That’s just what we are for the next two games probably, and then we’ll get back to our normal rotations.”
The Sixers said two days ago that Embiid has progressed well through his rehabilitation program, resuming basketball activities and ramping up his conditioning. The team has gone 6-2 since he suffered a left knee bone bruise on March 12.
Howard addresses ejections
Asked about his takeaways from the Sixers’ two games in Los Angeles, Dwight Howard had no hesitation.
“You know what mine is: I can’t get (any more) techs,” he said. “I know it might seem like I’ve been selfish or I’m not thinking about the team but my first thought, my second thought, my third thought is about this team. I want us to win and I don’t want people to get it twisted as though, if I’m getting the technical fouls, that I want to go against the team.
“I will be better, but I love this team and I won’t do anything to personally hurt this team. I want to see us succeed in the best way possible. For me, personally, I’ve just got to make sure I keep my head in the game, not allowing the opponents or anybody to veer me off my goal, which is to help this team win. But, other than that, I think we’ll be fine.”
Howard was ejected in both the Sixers’ win over the Lakers and loss to the Clippers. The Sixers prefer it when he’s the one getting on opponents' nerves.
“… There will be guys that coach will probably ask me to really agitate and get them out of their game,” Howard said after the Sixers’ preseason finale on Dec. 18. “And I’ll be ready for it. Playing in the league for 17 years, I’ve been the agitator and I’ve been on the other end of it, where people have been trying to agitate me. Whatever I have to do, whatever it takes to help this team win, I’m willing to do it. … And I know that’s a big part for our team, is to mentally destroy the other teams, and it starts with Joel and myself.”