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Lakers' Jordan Hill begins finding his range

Jordan Hill keeps Lakers afloat in victory over Rockets

There were quite a few gasps around the league when it happened.

Jordan Hill, $9 million a year?

It was true.

He would be back with the Lakers, earning well over the NBA's average of $5.5 million, after putting up career numbers of 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds last season.

It's safe to say he has defused some of the second-guessing, the latest sampling Wednesday against the Houston Rockets.

Hill had 16 points and 10 rebounds in almost 35 minutes as the Lakers upset the Rockets, 98-92.

There were doubts about Hill's stamina coming into this season, questions whether he could play starter's minutes.

He was effective in short bursts last season but averaged only 21 minutes a game. And that was a career-high. By far.

To his credit, he didn't loaf after signing his deal with the Lakers, which included a team option for another $9 million next season.

During the off-season, Hill, 27, cut back on drinking alcohol, which he readily admits has helped his energy. He also worked on his mid-range jumper, on display in an important third quarter Wednesday.

With Kobe Bryant making only two of 11 shots in the quarter, Hill kept the Lakers in the game with mid-range jumpers on three consecutive possessions.

"I mean, hey, I knew I had it," said Hill, now averaging 14 points and 9.7 rebounds. "I just had to get the minutes to get out there and do it. I'm having fun with it and enjoying it and I've got to keep it rolling."

Bryant said he often thought Hill's jumper would become an effective weapon.

"He just didn't play much. It was there," Bryant said. "This summer, he worked on it even more, so it's even more consistent than it was last year."

Scott > Young?

Nick Young anointed himself the best shooter in NBA history, but he can't even beat his coach in shooting games.

They've had several individual contests since Young started practicing with the team last week.

"Hasn't been a 'contest' yet. It hasn't been close," Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. "I'm going to blame it on his hand. We'll see in about a week or two when he says he's completely healed."

Young has played two games since returning from a torn ligament in his right thumb. That's his shooting hand.

Young was in a giddy mood after his season debut Tuesday against Atlanta. When asked if he was a better shooter than his coach, he responded with humor.

"Byron could shoot? I didn't know that," he said.

Scott had his own reply a day later.

"That's Nick being funny," said Scott, who was a 48.2% shooter over a 14-season career. "I'll just give him a copy of one of those old classic NBA games and he'll see. Just like I used to tell all the other guys, check the little Upper Deck cards and all that stuff. I shot the ball pretty good."

mike.bresnahan@latimes.com

Twitter: @Mike_Bresnahan

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