Hill stays in team’s sights
Veteran forward weighing offers
WALTHAM - Although New York and Phoenix can offer more money, the agent for free agent Grant Hill says the Celtics are still in the mix for his client’s services.
Agent Lon Babby said via e-mail yesterday that Boston, New York, and Phoenix are contenders to sign the 36-year-old forward and a decision is expected soon. The Celtics, however, could offer the least amount of money of the three with their $1.9 million biannual exception.
The Arizona Republic has reported the Knicks have offered Hill a three-year contract paying close to $10 million or a one-year, $5 million contract, while the payroll-concerned Suns still could use a portion of their $5.8 midlevel exception. The Suns and Knicks can also offer a starting spot, which the Celtics can’t.
“We’re strongly considering him and we’d like for him to come play for us,’’ Celtics president Danny Ainge said. “He has a lot of options.’’
Hill averaged 12 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 2.3 assists while starting in 68 games for Phoenix last season.
Doc Rivers, who coached Hill in Orlando, has recently met with him. Celtics guard Ray Allen said he also has talked to Hill, and Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have been in touch as well.
“I’ve spoken to him. He and I are friends,’’ Allen said. “I’ll have a conversation with him again. My phone lines are open.
“I hate to be a bugaboo, but in a situation like this, it’s like, ‘What do you need? Come to town. Let’s hang out. Let’s get together because as much as I want to do this for myself, I want to do it for you, too.’ It’s a two-way street.
“I couldn’t tell you [which team he’s leaning toward] and I don’t even want to be rude and ask to try to prepare. You just hope, just like Rasheed [ Wallace], you just hope that they see this is a great place to be.’’
On his sales pitch to Hill, Allen said, “When we talked, [Hill] was excited about what I was telling him. I told him, ‘If you ever want to win a championship, you want to win it in Boston because you become a god, you become a part of a legacy and you won’t die with the fans. It will always be everlasting. You can be with other cities and win it, but nothing like here.’ ’’
During the Celtics’ regular season, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker played bit parts. When they entered contests, they were seldom allowed to make more than one mistake without risking replacement.
But during the Summer Pro League, Giddens and Walker have been in the starting lineup, free to assert themselves and improvise. It has taken some getting used to.
“This is a lot different,’’ Walker said before the Celtics lost to Indiana, 91-88, last night in Orlando, Fla. “In the season, they are making chess moves and here it’s like playing checkers. This is totally different, but it’s a chance to go out and work on different aspects of your game.’’
This is also an audition for Giddens and Walker to show if they can fill the spot behind Pierce. Both have progressed since their rookie seasons ended in May. They have the athleticism and desire to be defensive factors, but neither had displayed a consistent scoring touch.
“Just being out there you gain a lot of confidence,’’ Walker said. “You find what you can do, what you can’t do, find your niche out there, that’s basically it. We’ve got a year under our belt, we know the system, we know what’s expected of us. So, all we’ve got to do is go out there and play.
“I can fill in for Paul at some point. It’s about working on getting better every day, working on my game, expanding my game, so when I get a chance, I’m ready. On offense, it’s when to take shots, where to be. I can always get better defensively. I just need to prove I can be on that level and be a professional player every day.’’
Celtics assistant coach Mike Longabardi has been working on both players’ perimeter shooting since they arrived last season.
“I think J.R. is a very good shooter,’’ Longabardi said. “He still needs to work on the 3-pointer. When he’s set and ready and on balance, he can shoot. If you leave him open, he will make you pay.’’
Walker is 16 for 25 in three games (he missed one with back soreness), including 2 for 3 on 3-pointers. Giddens has fared a little better, going 22 for 45.
“[Giddens’s] biggest strength is he can get to the basket,’’ Longabardi said. “I like that he’s not taking wild shots, he’s taking it to the basket and taking it up strong. One thing he needs to clean up is taking too many dribbles.
“Once he slows down I think he’s way better. He’s just been so excited because he wants to play so badly. But that’s what Summer League is for. We get him to go against James Harden, Brandon Rush - that’s a good test for him, to go against guys like that.’’
Frank Dell’Apa of the Globe staff contributed from Orlando, Fla.