“Regardless of what happens, there’s excitement in New York,” Hill said before the Knicks were routed by the in Game 3 of their first-round series. “After what’s gone on here for the last 10 years, they might throw a parade for the Knicks.”
Hill was at the in New York to screen the documentary he produced, “Starting at the Finish Line: The Coach Buehler Story.” He said that when he and his wife, Tamia, arrived in New York on Thursday, they immediately felt the warm glow of expectation surrounding the Knicks.
“You just walk around town, and the city is excited,” Hill said. “It hasn’t been like this in the spring for a while. I don’t know what happens to the team going forward, but that ’90s feel is back.”
Hill’s tells the story of Al Buehler, the legendary track coach at , who coached 45 years and was a champion of integration. Buehler’s cross-country teams captured six Atlantic Coast Conference championships and finished second 10 times. Buehler was on the United States Olympic coaching staffs at the 1972, 1984 and 1988 Games.
“This is a reminder of why sports are good, why sports are important,” Hill said.
The documentary was initiated by the filmmaker Amy Unell, and Hill, who played at Duke, came aboard as executive producer and narrator.
Hill is part of a growing number of past and current players who have produced documentaries. recently released “On the Shoulders of Giants,” about the Harlem Rens. ’s documentary on the Fab Five sparked an intriguing back and forth between Hill and Rose about the politics and sociology of race and identity. Baron Davis of the and Steve Nash, Hill’s teammate in Phoenix, have long been involved in making documentaries.
Hill is new to the form, though he has written two books and produced a catalog that accompanied a national tour of his personal art collection.
“Jalen, Baron, myself, Steve Nash have the ability to tell stories and bring stories to life,” Hill said. “Hopefully it’ll encourage others who want to step outside the box and do something a little different.”
Two summers ago, Hill contemplated joining the Knicks as a free agent but stayed in Phoenix. His friend and former teammate Amar’e Stoudemire joined the Knicks last summer. For the most part, Stoudemire has enjoyed an All-Star season.
Hill said that he warned Stoudemire that teams would wine and dine him and cautioned him to look past the money and concentrate on how he felt about the city.
“I encouraged him to look past all of the hype and make a decision he can live with,” Hill said. “When it’s not fun, when it’s not easy, can you imagine yourself living there? Look at the whole situation, don’t get caught up in all the fanfare. Obviously, it’s worked out.”
When the Knicks traded for in February, Stoudemire had to share the spotlight, although Hill said Stoudemire set the tone for the Knicks’ rejuvenation.
“Amar’e took the risk,” Hill said. “I love Carmelo, respect him — have to guard him. But Amar’e, when it wasn’t fashionable, came here and said, ‘I want that pressure, I want to be that guy, I want to restore things in this city with this franchise,’ and he did that, and I’m happy for him. He’s got big shoulders, he carries the load and the city’s embraced him.”
The Knicks reached the playoffs and played well in the first two games against Boston, after an extended adjustment in the regular season that was guided by Coach , though injuries to Chauncey Billups and Stoudemire took the sting out of the Knicks’ punch. Hill recalled that the Suns faced a similar situation with D’Antoni in the 2007-8 season when joined the team.
“It takes time,” Hill said. “You really don’t have time for practice. You need a training camp with a player like Carmelo to get everybody on board.”
Friday’s drubbing by the Celtics, after a typical New York buildup, drained much of the joy. Hill, whose Suns missed the playoffs this season, cautioned the Knicks and their fans not to be downhearted: there’s much to be said for reaching the playoffs, regardless of the result.
Never take reaching the playoffs for granted. Launching a great project and being embraced by a room full of well-wishers is gratifying.
None of that takes the sting out of missing the playoffs.
“This is great,” Hill said. “I’m humbled by being in Tribeca and the whole experience. This distracts you a little bit, but it still hurts. As much as I love this, I’d rather be playing right now.
“I’d rather be guarding Kobe.”