Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill faces a felony assault charge after his girlfriend accused him of choking and shoving her in Houston earlier this year.
Hill is charged with assaulting 28-year-old Darlene Luna on Feb. 29 at his apartment while the former first-round draft pick was playing for the Houston Rockets.
The 24-year-old Hill was charged by Harris County prosecutors in March, and he has a court appearance scheduled for Tuesday in Houston.
Hill was apologetic, but said little about the accusations after the Lakers’ practice at their training complex Monday.
”I just want to apologize to fans, to the Lakers, the organization, to everyone,” Hill said. ”I can’t speak on it right now. I’m going to let my attorney, my agents take care of that. Unfortunately, it happened at this time, but I’m going to keep my head up, keep working, keep playing.”
When asked if he would be able to play in Game 2 of the Lakers’ playoff series against Denver, Hill replied: ”I’ll be here, but we’ll see.”
The charge could affect a remarkable recent rise by the 6-foot-10 Hill, who has contributed valuable minutes off the bench for the Lakers in three straight games after playing little since arriving March 15 in a trade for Derek Fisher. Hill had 10 points and 10 rebounds while playing 24 minutes in the Lakers’ 103-88 series-opening victory over Denver on Sunday.
”We had a conversation,” Lakers coach Mike Brown said. ”He has talked to Mitch (Kupchak, the Lakers’ general manager). But it’s not that we’re worried about his mental focus. We just told him that we’re behind him.”
According to documents filed with Harris County officials, Luna told police she argued with Hill about their future. Luna said the two had been dating for about two years.
Luna said Hill hit her legs with his fists after she threw Hill’s two cellphones to the floor. Luna claimed Hill then pulled her off a couch and threw her against a wall before putting her in a chokehold from behind.
Hill played for Houston from February 2010 until the March trade. Hill was the eighth overall pick in the 2009 draft by New York but never panned out for the Knicks or Rockets, playing in just 32 games this season for Houston.
After going nearly a month between appearances for the Lakers before mid-April, Hill has earned an improbable spot in Los Angeles’ rotation heading into the playoffs over the past two weeks.
He had his biggest game April 22, contributing 14 points and a career high-tying 15 rebounds while playing 35 minutes after Metta World Peace’s ejection from the Lakers’ double-overtime win over Oklahoma City.
Hill leapfrogged fellow forwards Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts in Brown’s rotation with that performance, and his energy in the playoff opener helped minimize the absence of World Peace, who is suspended for five more games for viciously elbowing James Harden.
Shortly after news of the charges broke Monday, Hill posted on his Twitter account: ”Wowwwww” and ”Unbelievable!!!!!!”
The Lakers’ front office declined to comment on the charges.