The only stat that bothers Hill is that he is outsitting McGrady, playing 28.9 minutes a game to T-Mac's 40.2. Mark Myerson, the Baltimore surgeon who performed Hill's last two operations, has ordered Hill's minutes to be monitored, which has forced Rivers to do two things: Watch the clock and avoid Hill's imploring gaze. "The Magic pays the bills and makes the decisions," says Hill, "but I make it clear that I hate it." Yet even Hill admits that a feeling of relief passes over him if the ankle doesn't hurt when he torques it upon landing. The limited minutes will continue for another month or so, at which point Hill will return to full-time status—provided there are no further setbacks.
Eager as he is to go full bore, Hill counts his blessings. In those dark days following the third surgery, he contemplated a life without the ability to jog, much less return to the NBA. "It's like I've been given a second chance, and I want to make the most of it," he says. "Being away from the game helped recharge my batteries; at the same time it made me realize how much I love it. So in some strange way what happened was a blessing." He grins. "But I don't want any more of that kind of blessing, thank you."
He has already had an impact on the guy who leapfrogged him. "Sometimes I sit back and think of what Grant's gone through," says McGrady. "He was the main man, then he gets hurt and comes back into a situation where he has to take a little bit of a backseat. But he doesn't complain, he doesn't sulk, he doesn't do anything but play hard. I can learn from that. Anybody should learn from that."