Apr 28, 2011, 1:11 PM EST
Then ankle injuries robbed him of that explosiveness. He’s come back and become a solid player with some old-man game knowledge, but he can’t explode the same way.
“I don’t think anybody really knows I started to have ankle problems at the end of the 1999-2000 season, probably mid-March,” Hill said. “I was still able to go out and play. I still played well, but I was getting a lot of treatment. It was certainly bothering me. As we got closer to the end of the season, my ankle was really getting worse. I was missing practice. To the point where we had a nationally televised game against Philadelphia and I just pulled myself. My ankle was just killing me. We get back, we get an MRI. They say it’s a bone bruise.”
Hill rested the final three games of the regular season and returned to the lineup for the Miami playoff series.
“It’s still bothering me,” Hill said. “I pull myself in the third quarter. They put me on some heavy medication and we had a long break between Game 1 and Game 2. While I was on this medication I felt great. Obviously it was masking the pain. Went out and played in Game 2 and I felt a pop in the second quarter, continued on in the third quarter and couldn’t go on. When we got back, we found out it was broken.
“I (had been) told everything was fine. I even found out that certain team doctors were questioning whether I was really hurt, thinking I was soft or whatever. This was after I had pulled myself from Game 2 against the Heat. At that time, when I found out I had broken my ankle, as crazy as this sounds, I was relieved. I finally had some confirmation, I finally had proof that I’m really not making it up.”
There is a reason that a lot of players today, when the team tells them they do or don’t need surgery, get a second opinion from their own doctor. Team doctors have divided loyalties, and there is no shortage of stories of professional athletes being put back on the court or in the field by a doctor when they never should have been cleared.
The Detroit doctors certainly have another version of this story. But if Hill had gotten a second opinion, his career might have been very different.
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