Hill: Leaning Toward Orlando


Wednesday, July 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


DETROIT (AP) — Goodbye, Detroit, Hello, Orlando.

That's the word from All-Star forward Grant Hill, who acknowledged he's close to a deal with the Magic after six seasons with the Pistons.

After house-hunting in central Florida, Hill and his wife flew back to Michigan on Tuesday.

NBA rules prohibit free agents from signing contracts until Aug. 1.

``I'm leaning'' toward signing with Orlando, Hill told Detroit News columnist Bob Wojnowski on a flight from Orlando to Detroit on Tuesday. ``Well, it's not 100 percent, but it's close.

``I know people will be upset, but I felt I did everything I could do here,'' Hill said. ``I love Detroit. I enjoy the people. This is just a golden opportunity, for basketball reasons.

``I wish the Pistons well, I really do.''

Joe Dumars, who became the Pistons' president for basketball operations last month, had re-signing Hill as his first and biggest job.

``I can't comment until I talk with Grant,'' Dumars told the Detroit Free Press.

The Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday quoted two NBA sources as saying Hill was preparing to sign with Orlando.

Magic general manager John Gabriel said he knew nothing of the decision.

Hill has spent his entire NBA career with Detroit, and the Pistons reached the playoffs in four of his six seasons, but have never won a series. Last season, he averaged 25.8 points, third-best in the NBA.

The Magic are offering Hill and San Antonio free agent Tim Duncan six-year deals worth $67.5 million, the most allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. They can get seven-year, $86.5 million contracts if the Magic agree to sign-and-trade proposals with the Pistons and Duncan's team, the San Antonio Spurs.

``I have gotten conflicting reports while he was down there,'' Dumars told the News. ``First, I heard that Grant was committing and Tim was not. Then, the next day, I heard that Grant was not committing and Tim was. So I am not making any assumptions until we talk.''

During the past year, the Magic cleared an estimated $20 million of salary cap space, enabling them to offer the maximum first-year salary of $9 million to two star players.

The Magic entertained both players throughout the weekend. Duncan left Monday without commenting to the media.

The Magic are hoping Hill can sway Duncan into signing with Orlando, which could radically alter the balance of power in the Eastern Conference.

``I think they both enjoyed themselves here,'' Gabriel said. ``They are two individuals who will make their decision on their own. It's hard for us to speculate on what helps a person make a decision.''

Detroit first-round draft pick Mateen Cleaves said last week that he hoped to share the court with Hill.

``I've already had people out looking for Grant,'' he said. ``I really want him to stay. It would be an honor to play with him, and he would be a great mentor to me. He could take me under his wing just like Joe took him.''

Hill's departure would give Detroit $8.27 million more next season under the NBA salary cap. But with or without Hill, the Pistons would be able to buy an elite player or two to keep them competitive.

Dumars has already spoken to Indiana's Jalen Rose, a product of Detroit Southwestern High School and the University of Michigan. Rose was impressed with Dumars' plan, but early reports indicate Rose is leaning toward re-signing with the Pacers.

Among other free agents Dumars hopes to bring in are Portland power forward Brian Grant, Clippers power forward Maurice Taylor, Indiana power forward Austin Croshere, Houston guard Cuttino Mobley, Portland guard Greg Anthony and Utah guard Howard Eisley.