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Ankle forces out Hill, maybe for two weeks

By DARRELL FRY

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000


Grant Hill sat out the Magic's game against Atlanta on Saturday night because of his ailing left ankle, and a team spokesman said he could be sidelined for two weeks.

"I can't talk right now," Hill said before tipoff. "I'll know something after the game."

Coach Doc Rivers had said Friday that he planned to evaluate Hill during the Friday and Saturday games and then decide whether to let Hill continue to play injured or rest him until the ankle is healed.

"Honestly, I don't know what to do," Rivers said. "The thing I'm most fearful of is getting down to March or February and he's still going (injured) and you're kicking yourself because you didn't sit him down earlier. I'd rather have him for six healthy years than to not have him healthy ever."

Rivers said he already was tired of not knowing whether Hill, who broke the ankle just before last season's playoffs, would be able to play from game to game. When Hill can't play, rookie Mike Miller is thrust into the starting lineup.

LAYING MORE BRICKS: Look for Shaquille O'Neal to have his ups and downs again at the free-throw line. He apparently did little to try to improve during the off-season. In a 98-89 win over Vancouver on Saturday, he was 3-of-14 from the line. "I don't have a new free-throw stance. I'm not doing anything," he told reporters in Los Angeles. "I'm not really worried about it. When I need to make 'em, I'll make 'em. If not, if I'm not good enough, then trade me. Only you (reporters) care.

"I hope I shoot zero percent so you guys have something to write about. I've never cared."

WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?: The surprise teams have to be Vancouver and Dallas. Both won their opening two games, something preseason favorites the Lakers, Blazers, Magic and Knicks didn't do. The Grizzlies, who were 22-60 last season, are playing under new coach Sidney Lowe, who is spreading the offensive opportunities instead of running many one-on-one plays.

The Mavs, 40-42 a season ago, not only started 2-0 but beat two playoff teams (Milwaukee and Indiana). However, both games were at home. Dallas' first road game is Monday against Denver.

A HALLOWEEN SCARE?: The league apparently still is trying to recover from the 1998 lockout and Michael Jordan's retirement. There were many empty seats around the league on Tuesday, opening night.

Utah's opener against the Los Angeles Clippers drew the smallest crowd (an announced 17,824) in the history of the 9-year-old Delta Center. San Antonio, which played Indiana, had its smallest opening-night crowd (17,450). Houston's opener against Minnesota attracted 11,327.

DID YOU KNOW?: The NBA on opening night commemorated the 50th anniversary of blacks joining the league. The league honored Earl Lloyd and the late Chuck Cooper and Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, who were the first to cross the color line, before the Sixers-Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. NOT ON PACE: Indiana has been slow to get out of the gate. The Pacers, the Eastern Conference champions last season, are grappling with a variety of off-season changes that have them out of synch.

Perhaps the biggest change is Isiah Thomas replacing Larry Bird as coach. The Pacers also lost longtime point guard Mark Jackson, who is with Toronto, and starting center Rik Smits, who retired.

Indiana dropped its opening two games, to San Antonio and Dallas, both on the road. But it has a host of games against weak teams (Milwaukee, Washington and Detroit twice) coming up.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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