Hill still a defensive marvel at 39

Grant Hill is the second-oldest player in the NBA. But despite his advancing age, he’s still impressing opponents with his basketball skills.

Hill asked Phoenix coach Alvin Gentry Friday night if he could come off the bench and he responsed with some key defense down the stretch to help the Suns notch a key victory over Houston to bolster their playoff hopes.

Several Spurs said they they are enthralled by Hill’s resiliency. Hill is a day younger than Kurt Thomas of Portland, the league’s oldest player.

“You’ve got some guys who are playing and older. But they are playing at a different rate,” Spurs forward Boris Diaw said. “Grant Hill is always full speed and running up and down leading a lot of fast breaks. It’s amazing the way he’s playing.”

Spurs forward Stephen Jackson said he would like to emulate Hill in how he approaches his craft.

“That’s a credit to him to show how he prepares, how he takes care of his body,” Jackson said. “It’s somebody I definitely look up to. I’m happy for him because he’s a role model to a lot of guys.”

Hill has given indications he would like to return again next season with hopes of becoming the first 40-or-above NBA player since Dikembe Mutombo played when he was 42 with Houston in 2009.

Jackson, who turned 34 on April 5, said he hopes to have an extended career by Hill before he retires.

“I’ve been blessed, thank God, not  to have any serious injuries. No surgeries,” Jackson said. “Hopefully,  I can play that long. As long as the game is loving me, I’m going to love it back.”

Oldest players in NBA

Kurt Thomas, Portland                       Oct. 4, 1972

Grant Hill, Phoenix                              Oct. 5, 1972

Juwan Howard, Miami                        Feb. 7, 1973

Jason Kidd, Dallas                                March 23, 1973

Steve Nash, Phoenix                           Feb. 7, 1974

Marcus Camby, Houston                    March 22, 1974

Derek Fisher, Oklahoma City             Aug. 9, 1974    

Ben Wallace, Detroit                             Sept. 10, 1974 

Jerry Stackhouse, Atlanta                   Nov. 5, 1974

Anthony Carter, Toronto                     June 16, 1975

Anthony Parker, Cleveland                  June 19, 1975 

Mike James, Chicago                             June 23, 1975

Erick Dampier, Atlanta                          July 14, 1975 

Ray Allen, Boston                                    July 20, 1975 

Tony Battie, Philadelphia                       Feb. 11, 1976

Francisco Elson, Philadelphia                Feb. 28, 1976

Brad Miller, Minnesota                          Apr. 12, 1976 

Tim Duncan, San Antonio                       Apr. 25, 1976

Kevin Garnett, Boston                            May 19, 1976

Andre Miller, Denver                              May 19, 1976

Earl Boykins, Houston                             June 2, 1976 

Antawn Jamison, Cleveland                   June 12, 1976 

Eduard Najera, Charlotte                       July 11, 1976 

Raja Bell, Utah                                          Sept. 19, 1976

Chauncey Billups, L.A. Clippers             Sept. 25, 1976   

Vince Carter, Dallas                                 Jan. 26, 1977

Brian Cardinal, Dallas                              May 2, 1977

Manu Ginobili, San Antonio                    July 28, 1977

Nazr Mohammed, Oklahoma City          Sept. 5, 1977

Jason Terry, Dallas                                   Sept. 15, 1977

Paul Pierce, Boston                                   Oct. 13, 1977 

Kenyon Martin, L.A. Clippers                 Dec. 30, 1977

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