Before the Philadelphia 76ers rolled past the Boston Celtics in a 106-96 win on Tuesday, led by 35 points from Joel Embiid, head coach Doc Rivers provided an update on the Sixers’ trade deadline acquisition, George Hill. Hill has been out since late January and underwent surgery on his right thumb on February 2.
When speaking to media before Tuesday’s game, Rivers explained that there’s currently no timetable for Hill’s first appearance. Given the nature of the injury and how easily pain or aggravation can be caused when returning to play against contact, the Sixers are going to be as careful as possible with Hill.
“There’s no timetable that I know of to be honest,” Rivers said. “I can’t see it any time soon, honestly.”
Of course, the more time Hill has before the playoffs to get back in form and gel with his teammates, the better. But as he’s racked up 13 years of experience in the NBA (including 127 playoff games) and he’s spending time learning the Sixers’ schemes before he can play, Rivers is confident that Hill will fit in quickly. The head coach is hoping that Hill will have at least 10 games before the playoffs to get acclimated and hone his conditioning. With 21 games remaining this regular season, the Sixers still have some leeway to hit that target.
“It’s not like we can throw him in with a cast on his arm,” Rivers said on March 29. “We have to wait for him to be healthy. But we knew that when we did the trade. George Hill doesn’t have to do a rehearsal for us to find out if he can play or not. We know exactly what he does, and he’s one of those guys that I believe you can throw in and he’ll figure it out for us. Hopefully we have a 10-game window or more that he can get acclimated with the team. But I’m very confident that he can fit in.”
Seeing as Rivers had the same thumb injury himself, he knows just how carefully it needs to be treated.
“I had that same injury and that’s not anything you mess around with,” Rivers said on Tuesday. “Just one whack, you may not get injured, but the pain is excruciating because your nerves are so raw. So we’re going to try to be as tentative as possible with this injury.”
“I injured it during the playoffs and played with it,” Rivers explained when describing his experience. “In those days you just had no choice. It was not fun to play with and then the surgery, it took quite a while, honestly. More when you got back, for that whole first half of the year, you’re fine, you’re healthy, but the pain of every time [you dribble]. Unfortunately you’re a guard that dribbles the ball, so the chance of you not getting hit in the hand is zero.”
Hill is on the Sixers’ current road trip, he’s learning the playbook, he took part in Tuesday’s shootaround, he’s talking things over with coaches on the sidelines, and he’s giving defensive pointers to some of the team’s young players. While he waits to play, Hill is getting as involved with his new team as he can.