The oft-injured forward had surgery for a sports hernia on Oct. 31, and did not begin practicing full-time until last week. Hill played 67 games a year ago — his highest total since 1999-2000, and was named an All-Star, averaging 19.7 points and a career-low 4.8 rebounds.
The 33-year-old Hill played only 47 of a possible 328 games over the previous four seasons due to his recurring left ankle problems, missing the entire 2003-04 season. He has had five surgeries on the ankle since joining the Magic in 2000.
Orlando players are excited to get Hill back.
“Grant’s been looking awesome at practice so once we get Grant back that’s just going to be another scorer, another person that can draw fouls and get us into penalties,” Magic guard DeShawn Stevenson said.
“It’s going to be exciting when he comes and everyone plays and he gets his rhythm back, it’s going to be very exciting to watch.”
“We’ll go through another transitional phase, but it’ll be worth it to get guys back,” coach Brian Hill said. “Roles will change, adjustments will be made for the better.”
Grant Hill played in all three games against the Knicks last season, averaging 22.3 points in leading the Magic to a 2-1 mark.
Orlando is just 1-4 in December, ending a five-game losing streak with a 94-83 win over Denver on Saturday. It has been a disappointing start to a month in which the Magic play nine of 13 games at home.
New York started a stretch in which it plays six of seven at home with a 112-92 loss to Milwaukee on Monday. The Knicks’ bench was outscored 42-20 as New York dropped its third straight.
“I haven’t had to coach effort with this team. Tonight, I felt I did and that’s no fun,” Knicks coach Larry Brown said. “It’s my responsibility to get us to do better.”
The loss overshadowed a sensational performance by rookie center Channing Frye, who had a career-high 30 points on 14-of-18 shooting. Frye is averaging 19.4 points in seven home games.
“I’m definitely disappointed because we didn’t go out there and do what it took to win,” Frye said. “We had opportunities to execute, and we didn’t do that tonight.”
STANDINGS (through Dec. 13): Magic - 3rd place, 2 1/2 GB, Southeast Division. Knicks - 4th place, 4 GB, Atlantic Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Magic - Francis, 17.5 ppg and 6.2 apg; Howard, 13.3 rpg. Knicks - Marbury, 17.9 ppg and 6.6 apg; Frye, 6 rpg.
2004-05 SEASON SERIES: Magic, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: March 4: Magic, 111-89. At Orlando, Fla., Hill scored 29 points and Howard added 20 as the Magic placed six players in double figures and snapped the Knicks’ four-game winning streak at TD Waterhouse Centre.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Magic - 3-5 on the road; Knicks - 3-4 at home.