Hill’s Rise Great For L.A., Bad For Kaman?


VIDEO: Jordan Hill talks about his career night against Detroit

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — For Chris Kaman, what goes around is coming around, meaning he could be sitting down, a lot.

When Kaman returned to Dallas earlier this month as a newly minted member of a barely recognizable Los Angeles Lakers team, the loose-lipped veteran center decided to vent. He had pent-up anger toward Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle after the pair had their differences during Kaman’s lone season in Big D.

Kaman started 52 of the 66 games he played, but he averaged a career-low 20.7 mpg and his playing time often fluctuated. During the Lakers Nov. 5 shootaround in Dallas, Kaman ripped Carlisle for playing games with players and he scoffed at Carlisle’s use of him: “They’re going to play me five minutes a game? That’s not going to work.”

Then came Sunday night and the Lakers’ 114-99 win over the Detroit Pistons. Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, who Kaman lauded that day in Dallas for being more appealing to players, played Kaman a season-low five minutes — 5 minutes, 24 seconds to be exact.

It could become more of a trend than a blip for Kaman, who is averaging only 17.3 mpg anyway under D’Antoni, less than he played in Dallas. On a makeshift Lakers roster still void of Kobe Bryant and thin on the back line, Kaman, 31, hoped to play a bunch alongside four-time All-Star Pau Gasol. But physical, high-intensity power forward Jordan Hill is beginning to claim that spot as his own. In his fourth consecutive start Sunday, the 26-year-old Hill turned in a career game against the massive front line of the Pistons with 24 points and 17 rebounds in almost 36 minutes.

Hill has logged more than 30 minutes in his last three starts. He’s posted three double-doubles, averaging 18.8 ppg and 12.0 rpg with 16 offensive boards, in the four starts. He’s shot better than 50 percent from the floor and is 17-for-19 from the free throw line as a starter after going 6-for-17 as a reserve. He has seven blocked shots and five turnovers, and is a plus-21.

Before D’Antoni inserted him into the starting lineup, the muscular, 6-foot-10, 235-pound Hill was averaging 6.3 ppg and 6.6 rpg in 16.1 mpg. He had scored in double figures once, 12 points in the season opener, and had one double-digit rebound game. On Sunday, Hill made a career-best 11 shots on 16 attempts, killing the Pistons in the paint.

Afterward, highly regarded Pistons center Andre Drummond liked what he saw from the hard-charging Hill: “He runs around, rebounds and plays hard, so it was like playing a clone of myself.”

Kaman and Hill obviously bring decidedly different styles. Hill punishes inside and a scraps for everything. He delivers the hustle plays a team like the Lakers, especially without Bryant, must have to win games. On many nights, L.A. will be outmanned by more talented teams and often the difference between winning and losing will come down to elbow grease.

The 7-foot Kaman, on a one-year, $3.2 million deal with the Lakers, is more finesse and can extend out of the paint with a good mid-range jumper. He’s not a superb defender, but will get his share of blocks and rebounds. Hill, though, adds a fierceness and routinely launches his body to secure rebounds or loose balls, or what are often referred to as 50/50 balls, plays that are up for grabs and will either end the opponent’s possession or prolong his team’s possession.

Hill’s offensive rebounding percentage (the percentage of offensive rebounds a player gets while on the floor) is 18.1 percent compared to 8.3 percent for Kaman. Hill grabs 61.5 percent of his team’s offensive rebounds when he’s on the floor. Kaman gets to 34.6 percent. Hill has nearly doubled Kaman this season in second-chance points and points in the paint.

“He’s a bruiser down there,” Lakers point guard Steve Blake told the the Los Angeles Times. “He goes out there with reckless abandonment and throws his body around and he’s strong. That’s just the way he plays and I think he’ll continue to do that.”

Hill hasn’t had a stellar start to his career. The former Arizona Wildcat is on his third team in now his fifth season. Drafted eighth overall in 2009 by the Knicks, New York traded him later that season to Houston. He didn’t earn much more playing time with the Rockets, who traded him to the Lakers in March 2012 for Derek Fisher and a 2014 first-round draft pick.

Hill showed flashes early last season, but was lost for the season after 29 games to a hip injury that required surgery.

Only now are the Lakers starting to see what Hill might be. That’s great news for L.A. Perhaps bad news for Kaman.

13 Comments

  1. lucky fri says:

    hill is good, he never got chance and now he can proove. in my opinion he is a pf as a starter. as a bench big he could play 4,5 like taj gibson. kaman has size, i think a good team needs a least 3 bigs which can play. williams is not a stetch 4, he can do. if williams is a stretch 4 every sf about 6″8 is stretch 4. williams is just a weak 3 which only strength is ist to shoot 3s. i like the lakers, but i dislike the work of dantoni,especially that he is not able to adept to the strenghts of the lakers. you got a slow team with good bigs. what do you: for sure play run & gun and a ittle defense. however better than mike brown. lakers management is crazy or makes his dicissions after 2k ratings. playing a video game its nice to have 8 players with a 3 point skill. but reality includes abilities like character… i am sad for kobe, he is aging and would do easier if you give him real supporting cast like the spurs do for good old timmy. LA had a good start, but they will start losing too much games

  2. Milen says:

    About a year too late, but D’Antoni has finally come to his senses! Congrats on finally seeing the obvious! If they could only find a decent PG to replace Nash (poor guy will soon need crutches to stay on the floor, a HUGE transfer mistake)

  3. migsrocks says:

    Hill is better than Kaman, but together they can be a great combo along side gason and Bryant and a good and healthy Rondo.lol

  4. Marko says:

    It was only matter of time. Hill can be very good starter for any team. He is talented, team oriented player who is fighting ’till the last breath. He has shown good basketball IQ, and he only needed more playing time to loosen up and to find his rhythm. He is the beast on offensive rebound! I am not expecting him to repeat last performance on regular basis, but he will prove to be more than useful. I also like Blake as starting point guard more than Nash( I love Nash, but nobody can win fight against aging.

  5. chris r says:

    This good for the Lakers. Hill has been long over dued to get his minutes. Kaman is still knew to the system. Hill has player for Dan for years! Play kaman at the 5 and give pau break because he will need it. Either way pau and hill will get iinjured which is why Mitch got kaman because he would rather have him play over are rookie center sacre. Lakers need is amare type player that can play the pick and roll, which is why hill is being so effective cause it s harder for hill to to create his own shot. Kaman who shoots better free throws and j pops too much in the pick and roll which does not make him the better choice all the time. Plus kaman get out ran by most teams and hill can keep up much longer.I think kaman`s average about 20 mins a game roughly around 4 or 5 mins a quarter.

  6. ImJusSayin says:

    Antoni was finally forced to use Hill by the media and Hills play. He does not like him and it shows. He likes Williams so don’t expect Antoni to make any changes there unless the media calls him on it enough. LAL requires a strong coach because of it’s history and popularity and Antoni is not it but neither is Jim Buss so….

  7. Game Time says:

    D’Antoni’s system shines when the 3’s are hitting and the other team isn’t much on defense. Lakers are going fall into a real nasty losing streak the next few games.

  8. Kingphillip says:

    The frustrating thing is there’s an easy way to give kaman more minutes. And it dkesnt involve cutting hills (who’s been our best player lately) or gasols minutes. QUIT PLAYING SHAWNE WILLIAMS!! He’s shooting under 37% from the field and only grabbing 2.6 rebounds a night. But he’s one of dantonis boys, a “stretch” 4. Debatable since he hasn’t shot the 3 all that well either. A front line that rotates between gasol hill and kaman could work great if the lakers would quit wasting time with shawne Williams on the floor.

    • dmh says:

      Agreed…….

      The problem for Mike D’Antoni is that old habits die hard and the dude is stubborn. He likes “his guys” regardless whether they are over the hill or not. He overplayed Kobe to his first significant injury of his career and he will still play Williams like he has since Williams was his guy in New York for the stretch four. It is not good for the lakers that Mike D is not adaptable to the changing situation of age and style.