D E T R O I T, July 5, 2000 -- Goodbye, Detroit and hello, Orlando?
That’s the word from All-Star forward Grant Hill, whoacknowledged he’s close to a deal with the Magic after six seasonswith the Pistons.
After house-hunting in central Florida, the free agent and his wife flewback to Michigan on Tuesday.
NBA rules prohibit free agents from signing contracts until Aug.1.
‘I Wish the Pistons Well’
“I’m leaning” toward signing with Orlando, Hill told DetroitNews columnist Bob Wojnowski on a flight from Orlando to Detroit onTuesday. “Well, it’s not 100 percent, but it’s close.
“I know people will be upset, but I felt I did everything Icould do here,” Hill said. “I love Detroit. I enjoy the people.This is just a golden opportunity, for basketball reasons.
“I wish the Pistons well, I really do.”
Joe Dumars, who became the Pistons’ president for basketballoperations last month, had re-signing Hill as his first and biggestjob.
”I can’t comment until I talk with Grant,” Dumars told theDetroit Free Press.
All-Star Seeks a Winning Team
The Orlando Sentinel on Tuesday quoted two NBA sources as sayingHill was preparing to sign with Orlando.
Magic General Manager John Gabriel said he knew nothing of thedecision.
Hill has spent his entire NBA career with Detroit, and thePistons reached the playoffs in four of his six seasons, but havenever won a series. Last season, he averaged 25.8 points,third-best in the NBA.
When asked Monday night outside his resort-area hotel, Hill onlysaid that he and his wife, Tamia, had an enjoyable time in Orlando.
“It was hot. I can tell you that — very hot,” Hill said beforegetting into a limousine to go to dinner. “But I don’t have muchelse I can say. I’d like to keep it to myself for now. Hope youunderstand. We’ll talk about it later.”
Hill is expected to meet with Pistons officials later this weekbefore announcing his decision to join the Magic.
The Magic are offering Hill and free agent forward Tim Duncansix-year deals worth $67.5 million, the most allowed under thecollective bargaining agreement. They can get seven-year, $86.5million contracts if the Magic and their current teams agree tosign-and-trade proposals.
During the past year, the Magic cleared an estimated $20 millionof salary-cap space, enabling them to offer the maximum first-yearsalary of $9 million to two star players.
The Magic entertained both players throughout the weekend.Duncan left Monday morning without commenting to the media.
The Magic are hoping Hill can sway Duncan into signing withOrlando, which could radically alter the balance of power in theEastern Conference.
Hill is expected to sign, regardless of what Duncan decides.
“I think they both enjoyed themselves here,” Gabriel said.“They are two individuals who will make their decision on theirown. It’s hard for us to speculate on what helps a person make adecision.”