Solomon Hill wouldn't have returned to Louisiana if he didn't think he would play this season.
Hill has rejoined the New Orleans Pelicans and returned to Louisiana after spending months to rehab a torn left hamstring in Los Angeles, an injury that required surgery in August and allowed for four months of introspective self-reflection — and plenty of time to watch the Pelicans on his television.
The 6-foot-7 defender-first forward has missed all 34 games this season, and, even though his hamstring is "feeling good," he isn't expected to return soon, at least not in 2017. Hill's original diagnosis required a recovery of 6-8 months, setting March as a potential destination.
Although an official timetable hasn't been set, Hill plans to return to the floor this season — or he wouldn't have returned to New Orleans, he said Thursday in his first media appearance since reuniting with the Pelicans.
“Yeah, I feel good," he said. "I don’t think I would be here if I didn’t think I would be able to play for this season. It’s just about staying with it, every day getting a little bit better. I think I’ll be able to travel with the guys, so that’s a good sign too. Who knows, next week I could feel like a whole different person and it could change the timetable. But I’ve just got to get to that point.”
As of Thursday, Hill remains unable to defend an opponent's most threatening wing, his usual role, and traverse the court at full speed. But he is able to run, lift weights, stretch and shoot to rebuild stamina and strength.
He's even starting yoga soon.
“It’s good," Hill said of his injured hamstring. "Just the ability to do things normally, except all the explosive stuff. I know it’s just a process and to take it slowly. Once I’m back, I like to feel healthy, feel strong and capable of what I’m doing out there on the court.”
Hill, an upbeat and insightful presence in New Orleans' locker room who started 71 games last season, tore his hamstring in an innocuous offseason pickup game and hasn't played since the oft-rocky rehabilitation process began in the summer.
“It’s not like it was an ankle sprain — ice, recovery and be out there in a couple games,” Hill said. “It was a situation where no matter how hard I lift, no matter how much (physical therapy) I did, it was always a timing thing. Once I was able to wrap my head around that, it was just like, you know, once I get around the guys I want them to see that I’m able to do stuff.
“I don’t want to be around the guys and not be able to participate in anything. When I’m back, I want to be able to do things with the guys, I want to be able to get out there. It was tough just watching them through the TV.”
The 2017-18 version of the Pelicans on Hill's television has yet to be seen with Hill as a key ingredient. New Orleans went 22-14 with Hill as last season closed as soon as the DeMarcus Cousins-Anthony Davis partnership began to find its stride.
This season's Pelicans are different. Rajon Rondo's here, pacing and navigating their offense with methodical precision, as are a number of role-playing veterans situated to support a potential postseason push — all of which Hill’s watched from afar.
“Everybody is playing some of their best basketball," he said. "I see Jrue (Holiday), what he’s done over the months. He’s improved. I see what E’Twaun (Moore) is doing. You know, the dynamic of AD and (Cousins). Rondo, of course. … Everybody’s playing some really good basketball. I’m excited to kind of — I don’t want to mess things up — but I just want to find my way in what everybody’s doing.”
With more than 40 regular season games to go, including Friday’s 7 p.m. tipoff against the Dallas Mavericks at the Smoothie King Center, the Pelicans are happy he's back.
“It’s cool," said Moore, New Orleans' current starting small forward. "He’s got a positive vibe to him, making everybody laugh. He’s got good spirits, so it’s good to see him around. Basketball game too, so he’ll be on the bench talking to us, so it’s pretty cool having him around.”