Injured knee isn't only challenge for Hill

DALLAS -- Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni laid out his basketball philosophy Tuesday and his words might explain why Jordan Hill is still searching for a defined role with the team.

"Everybody should have assists, everybody should have 3s and everybody should be playing great defense," D'Antoni said after shootaround in advance of his team's game against the Dallas Mavericks. "That's kind of what works best."

Hill, the Lakers' 6-10 back-up big man, might lead the league in both field goal percentage (73.3 percent) and offensive rebounding rate (hauling in 23.3 percent of all available boards on that end while he's on the court), but he's only crossing off one of D'Antoni's check boxes when it comes to passing, outside shooting and shutdown defense.

The good news for Hill is that after missing practice to undergo an MRI on Monday, he will be available to play Tuesday after the tests revealed a bone bruise.

"It’s not bad," Hill told ESPNLosAngeles.com Tuesday after taking a commercial flight that landed him a little after 10 p.m. Monday evening. "Just a little bone bruise. It’s not going to stop me. I can still play on it. I can still do the same things."

Hill said it was a relief for him, after suffering a sprained MCL in the same knee when he was with the Houston Rockets two seasons ago before L.A. acquired him, to find out that the injury wasn't more serious.

"He was having some swelling and it got a little worse towards the end of last game so just precautionary we had to check it out," said D'Antoni of Hill's knee that five-year veteran tweaked in L.A.'s second preseason game and had been playing on ever since. "But it turned out OK."

Hill has looked more than OK when he's been on the floor this season, averaging 6.3 points and 6.0 rebounds in just 14.0 minutes per game. But D'Antoni has admitted that he prefers Hill playing reserve minutes at the 5, rather than getting burn at the 4 where he prefers court spacers like Shawne Williams and Wesley Johnson.

After Hill grabbed an offensive rebound late in the Lakers' 105-103 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday that led to Pau Gasol's game-sealing free throws, Gasol called for Hill to receive more playing time alongside him in the front court.

"Even though he might not be perfect for the system and the spacing, his energy and effort makes up for a lot of things," Gasol said.

So far, however, D'Antoni is sticking to his system.

"You just have to weigh the difference of playing two big guys, traditional, like everybody plays or spreading the floor and running a little faster and getting more 3-point shots up," D'Antoni said. "You just have to weigh the difference and if we’re really good at the other one, then obviously you play the two bigs a little less. If we’re not good at that then we need to play the two bigs more."

At the very least, Hill's knee feeling all right will give him a chance to continue to try to convince D'Antoni to lean more on a conventional big-man lineup.