By Jerry Brown
Ask anyone around Grant Hill — coaches, trainers, even Suns general manager Steve Kerr — and they look at the sunny side of last Wednesday’s appendectomy, which will keep him out of action for at least two weeks.
Hill isn’t so sure. After missing so much basketball to injuries over the past seven years, every game is a gift he wants to embrace. So much so that there were nights during the first 34 games this season when he worked through pains that would have kept him out in the past in hope of playing a full season for the first time in a decade (he played 81 for the 1997-98 Pistons).
Hill said he plans to miss only “six or seven games,” meaning he could return next week during the Suns’ fourgame Eastern road trip that starts Jan. 22 in Milwaukee.
“If it wasn’t for this training staff, I don’t know if I would have made it (to this point) without missing a few games,” said Hill, who took his wife, Tamia, to lunch the day after his 45-minute surgery and was back watching practice Friday.
“There were times in the morning (of game day) when you leave the shoot thinking, ‘There’s no way I can play tonight.’ But I’d get in early, and (trainers Aaron Nelson and Erik Phillips) do their stuff, you know like Mr. Miyagi (the mystic healer from “The Karate Kid”) and they got me ready.
“So maybe, in the long run, there is some benefit. That’s what Kerr keeps telling me. It’s a long season, and it will be even longer when you consider what we’re trying to do. I haven’t played this much or this long in a while … so maybe it’s not the worst-case scenario.”
Hill wasn’t thinking that last Tuesday night, when he started getting severe muscle cramps. “I thought I’d eaten some bad shellfish or something, but I wasn’t getting the other classic symptoms of (food poisoning),” he said. “I spent a lot of time in the bathroom, but nothing was happening, you know? Then it started to hurt on one side more, and then it hurt to walk or lift my leg … and when I got to practice Wednesday morning, the guys knew I needed to go get checked out.”
Hill was given a picture of his appendix after the surgery. “I was told, usually, it’s 2 to 3 centimeters (in diameter) and mine was 8 to 9. So that’s pretty inflamed,” he said.
Hill nearly skipped all the trouble he’s having now about a decade ago. A week after completing a summer promotion tour in Mexico during the summer of 1998, Hill felt pain in the same place and ran a high fever. He checked into the Duke University Hospital — a teaching hospital — for overnight observation.
“They had interns checking me all night and taking readings and at 6 a.m., a nurse comes in and starts bathing me, saying they were going to do exploratory surgery because they felt my appendix might need to come out,” he said. “I called some doctors I knew at Duke and they came in and calmed everyone down.
“It turned out I just had a bad case of ‘Montezuma’s Revenge.’ But looking back, maybe I should have gone ahead and taken it out. I wouldn’t have this problem now.”