Shane Battier meant well.
The Rockets' forward, two times a member of the NBA's all-defensive team, had some time on his hands and got to thinking about his buddy Grant Hill taking on the heavy assignment of guarding Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference finals.
So Battier sent off an e-mail. There is some debate as to its length — Hill says it was short, most definitely not the five pages mentioned by TNT's Doug Collins. "You can't believe everything you hear," Hill said, smiling.
It might as well have contained a computer virus for all the good it did Hill on Monday night in Game 1 of the Lakers-Suns series at Staples Center.
Bryant ripped through the Suns — first Hill and then, when Hill got into foul trouble, Jared Dudley. Bryant had 40 points, and it happened to be the first time someone scored 40 against the Suns this season.
The most important matchup of the game turned out to be no matchup at all.
Bryant's teammate, Pau Gasol, talked about the difficulty of slowing him down once he gets that freight train-like momentum going. Twenty-one of Bryant's 40 points came in the third quarter.
"It's pretty hard. It's pretty impossible," Gasol said. "He'll just raise up in front of anybody and does a good job of understanding when he's hot and he really takes advantage of it."
Afterward, the affable Hill was quizzed about Battier's attempted contribution. He happened to have evidence of Battier's suggestions and, in the crowded locker room, showed one of the Arizona reporters the words on the tiny screen.
"I couldn't even understand it," Hill said, kidding.
Dudley noticed that Bryant had an extra bounce in his step. Clearly the week off between playoff rounds helped Bryant, but he probably could have done this after two days off, Dudley said.
"Most of the game was one on one. And he's one of the best one-on-one players offensively," Dudley said. "If you don't show him different looks, it's tough."
Said Hill: "It is what it is. He's the best player in the game. He's going to get points. Without knowing exactly what we did right or wrong tonight, we've just got to look at the tape tomorrow and talk about making some adjustments."
And what about the specifics of defending Bryant?
"I don't know; there's no rhyme or reason out there," Hill said. "You're just competing and trying to prevent him getting the ball. And, you know, try to make it difficult, and he got going there in the third, and I got three quick fouls. So that's that."
Hill even received a rare technical foul and was still trying to figure out why he got hit with one, noting that he didn't curse.
"I don't know why I got it," he said. "I'm sportsman of the year three times. I didn't say anything. I just turned away and kind of moved my hands and I got called for a technical."
The Suns spoke about regrouping and coming up with another approach for Wednesday's Game 2.
"Can't give away my secrets," Hill said. "Obviously, they weren't working tonight. So we'll have to go to Plan B."