Hill's job never was in doubt
Hill's future with the Magic seemed somewhat in jeopardy coming down the stretch as the Magic struggled, particularly against some of the NBA's worst teams. One disgruntled fan even started a Web site calling for Hill's firing.
But Smith said he never lost confidence in his coach and fully expects him to return next season. Hill has said all along he sees no reason why he won't honor the four-year contract that he signed two-season ago.
"He's our coach now and whether we were in the playoffs or not this season he's still going to be our coach next season," Smith said before Sunday's game. "It was never a make-the-playoffs type of thing with him."
Hill said he never had the feeling that his job was in jeopardy even though the Magic nearly became the first team in NBA history to miss the playoffs after starting the season 13-4.
"My goal all along was to help this team get back into postseason play," Hill said. "If we're in the postseason after not making it last season, then that's a step up for us. Now does that mean I'm happy with how this entire season has gone? No. But getting in the playoffs would be one of our goals accomplished."
No fear. While some in the Magic organization are hoping that Orlando can move up to the seventh seed and avoid a possible matchup against the Detroit Pistons, Smith said he would actually welcome such a first-round playoff matchup.
Smith said the goal of this playoff run should be entirely about getting playoff experience for Magic youngsters Dwight Howard, Darko Milicic, Jameer Nelson, Trevor Ariza and J.J. Redick.
Smith said he wouldn't mind playing Detroit even though Orlando was 0-4 this season against the Pistons as opposed to going 2-1 against the second-seeded Chicago Bulls.
"If you want your guys to get experience, don't you want it to be experience against the best?" Smith asked. "You remember what happened (Wednesday) with Dwight against Detroit? They practically beat him to death. You don't think those old, veteran players weren't sending him a message?
"To me, it really doesn't matter who we play because we're going against the same team every night. If the real Magic show up, we'll be just fine against any team. If we don't, we'll get beat."
Free throws. Hill was on the phone with NBA vice president Matt Winick Sunday to voice his displeasure with the Magic's hectic closing schedule. Orlando spent all of last week on the road, playing in Milwaukee, Detroit and Philadelphia. And Orlando closes the regular season by playing four games in five nights. Said Hill: "We talk to them this time of year before they start putting together next year's schedule. If you don't have a line of communication with them, they don't know what your concerns are." . . . Redick was back on the active list after missing Sunday's game with a bruised thigh muscle. The rookie shooting guard arrived at Amway Arena almost three hours before Sunday's game to test out his sore leg and pronounced himself ready to play. . . . Hill has been critical of Jameer Nelson's play at point guard at times this season, but he said Nelson is largely responsible for the Magic's improved offense of late. Said Hill: "He's a big reason why we're doing such a good job lately. He's making sure we stay organized. And if we don't have good numbers he's pulling the ball out and getting us into our offense."