Knicks' Hill faces steep climb getting NBA ready

Jordan Hill scored 13 points and pulled down

Jordan Hill scored 13 points and pulled down eight rebounds in 28:33 but made just six of 14 shots from the field. (Credit: AP)

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SARATOGA SPRINGS - Danilo Gallinari is showing signs that he may be well worth the No. 6 overall selection in 2008 and now Jordan Hill, this year's lottery pick, is the one wearing the question mark.

At least he's ahead of the Gallinari curve because he's not riding a stationary bike on the sideline nursing an injury like the Italian swingman did last year. But the Knicks expect Hill, like most rookies, will be more of a work-in-progress than an instant savior.

"It's definitely a process, coming from college," Hill said Wednesday after his second practice here at training camp.

Hill doesn't have any pressure on him to prove himself mainly because of the depth in the frontcourt for the Knicks, who are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday. But when a team makes a top 10 pick - he was the 8th overall choice - the "project" label is a bit disconcerting. Yet the team's other rookie, guard Toney Douglas, has assimilated himself very well already and Mike D'Antoni said the 29th overall pick, who is very quick and defensively relentless, "can contribute right away."

But for the 6-10 Hill, D'Antoni said, "It will be an adjustment."

The biggest adjustment so far appears to be the speed of the game, not as much from a physical standpoint, but a mental one. Hill is admittedly "in way better shape" now than he was during the five-game NBA Summer League in July. Conditioning is one thing, but Hill has to find his timing (and explosiveness) within D'Antoni's up-tempo, quick-thinking system.

"It's almost like going from an 80 mile an hour fastball to 110," D'Antoni said. "It's going to take him a little bit and the intensity he needs to play, it's going to take him time to adjust. We will drive that point home and if he gets it, I think he'll be right there in a month and he'll be ready to roll. If it takes him a little bit longer, it takes him a little bit longer. But we have the luxury of being patient with him."

D'Antoni seems set with going back to 6-9 David Lee and 6-9 Al Harrington as his frontcourt, with 7-2 Darko Milicic very much in the mix and versatile 6-10 Jared Jeffries there, as well. Considering D'Antoni's penchant for playing a tight rotation of eight to 10 players, Hill would have to have an outstanding camp to jump ahead on the depth chart.

"I was an unknown [at Arizona] when I first came in as a freshman, but I continued to work hard and I got here," Hill said. "So, basically, I've got to do the same thing at this level."

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