Grant Hill celebrates turning 40

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Clippers forward Grant Hill is celebrating his 40th birthday Friday but don't ask the 18-year veteran to get too nostalgic about the milestone.

"I don't know what you're talking about," Hill said with a smile when asked about his birthday. "When I turned 35, I started going backwards. I've been 30 before so it's no big deal."

Hill, who was drafted No. 3 overall in 1994 by the Detroit Pistons and signed with the Clippers on July 19, has quickly become of the most popular players in the locker room but sat out of contact drills in practice Thursday and was held out of Wednesday's scrimmage. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Hill was fine but simply trying to conserve the veteran's energy for when the games start to count.

"I'm not worried about Grant," Del Negro said. "He's got it figured out by now."

Clippers trainer Jasen Powell set up a plan for Hill before training camp started that would allow him to practice but not be involved in as much contact drills or scrimmages.

"Jasen and his staff told me throughout the whole training camp to get in and get out and be smart about it," Hill said. "That's what I'm doing. I'm just following their orders. In training camp your whole body is sore, but I look forward to getting out there and playing in Las Vegas and playing in China. I have been in five-on-fives and scrimmages. I'm just taking it easy. My young, wise teammate, Lamar Odom, told me, 'It's a marathon, not a sprint.' "

As Hill left the Clippers' practice facility Thursday for the last time as a 30-something athlete, he was just happy to still be in the NBA when he turns 40.

"Today is my last day in my 30s, I never really thought about it," Hill said. "I know it's my birthday but I'm just excited to be playing and excited to be on this team. Despite the age difference, I feel like I'm one of the guys and the guys here make me feel like I'm a part of things. Going into my birthday I'm just thankful to be in a good situation, on a good team with a lot of optimism and a lot of good people."