ROCHESTER, Mich. - Grant Hill knew he would have to face the fans at the Palace of Auburn Hills someday.
He just never dreamed it would take this long.
Five seasons after forcing the Pistons to trade him to the Magic, Hill finally will face his old team tonight. At least he hopes so.
"I don't want anything to go wrong between now and game time," Hill said Thursday. "I'm going to get a haircut in Pontiac and then I'm leaving the rest of the evening in the hands of (Pistons guard) Lindsey Hunter."
While Hill has faced the Pistons in Florida, this will be his first trip to the arena where he played his first six seasons. After playing just 47 games in his first three years with the Magic, then missing all of last season, he has started 33 of Orlando's 34 games this year, averaging 19.2 points.
Hill knows his departure angered many Pistons fans. After the 1999-2000 season, he decided to leave for Orlando, forcing team president and former teammate Joe Dumars to work out a sign-and-trade deal.
"The way I left probably wasn't handled the best on my part," Hill said. "You have to give Joe and his staff all the credit for the way they turned it into a positive."
In exchange for Hill, the Pistons got Ben Wallace and Chucky Atkins. Wallace blossomed into an All-Star and became Detroit's most popular athlete, while Atkins was a key part of last season's Rasheed Wallace trade.
"Obviously, the Pistons did okay," Hill said. "They've been able to do all the things that we weren't able to do when I was here. I guess my time was the bridge between the Bad Boys and the Wallace Boys."
Hill isn't sure what reaction he will get from the Palace crowd.
"I'm going to expect the worst and hope for the best," he said.
Dumars, though, thinks the fans will welcome Hill back with open arms.
"Grant Hill was a special player here in Detroit and I'm sure our fans are going to give him a great reception," Dumars said. "I'm happy to see him back because he represents the very best in sports."
WILLIAMS MAKES CBA DEBUT: Hoping to return to the NBA, Jayson Williams began his comeback bid Wednesday night by scoring two points and grabbing four rebounds in limited action after signing a contract with the Idaho Stampede of the Continental Basketball Association.
Williams, who faces reckless manslaughter charges related to a 2002 shooting at his New Jersey mansion, turns 37 next month. He quit in 2000 because of knee problems.
Williams did not start against the Yakima Sun Kings, but was first off the bench in both halves of Idaho's 117-109 win. He drew a polite cheer from the announced crowd of 2,367 when he first took the floor about midway through the first quarter.
"I felt great. I really appreciated it. I was a little rusty," Williams said.Thursday's games
KOBE INJURED: Lakers star Kobe Bryant sustained what the team called a severely sprained right ankle midway through the first quarter against Cleveland. X-rays were negative, but Bryant will have an MRI today, team spokesman John Black said. Bryant was injured when he landed on Ira Newble's right foot while going for a rebound under the Cavaliers' basket. Newble was called for a foul on the play.
ROCKETS 94, NETS 85 (OT): Bob Sura scored a career-high 35, including a game-clinching 3-pointer with 1:02 left in overtime, to lead host Houston. The Rockets stole New Jersey's inbounds pass with 0.7 seconds to go to send the game into overtime.
KINGS 107, JAZZ 93: Peja Stojakovic scored 27, Chris Webber had 23 points and 15 rebounds, and Brad Miller had 21 on 9-of-10 shooting for the host Kings.