Saturday, October 20, 2007

Dwyane Wade: “He was like the Magic Johnson of our era”

And of mine…

Unlike NBA Superstars Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan who generated a buzz in their respective NBA comebacks, former Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, and New York Knicks guard-forward Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway situation is quite different. Returning after almost a two-year absence, Hardaway seems willing to forgo the luxuries once afforded to him by his ability to play basketball (without a guaranteed contract, Hardaway only received $109 daily for food and expenses)—for one final shot—an opportunity to play the game that has given so much to him and a chance at the elusive Larry O'Brien trophy.

Palm Beach Post staff writer Carlos Frias shares that Penny is quite serious with his return having enlisted the services of a number of individuals:

(Hardaway) moved to Miami last year and began working with Downs, who had helped players like Alonzo Mourning, Baron Davis and Jamal Mashburn extend their careers. The pain in his knee disappeared, but he remained invisible to the NBA.

Nine months ago, he moved back to Memphis to play in a semipro league. He maintained a personal team dedicated to getting Hardaway back to the NBA: Downs, who flew up on the weekends; a therapist from Houston; a strength coach in Memphis; and a shooting coach from Orlando.

On the court, he no longer lived above the rim, but he was throwing down windmill dunks, shooting from long-range and making dazzling passes against lesser but highly motivated competitors.

"Because of his star appeal, everybody wanted to show him up," said his shooting coach, Buzz Braman. "So he had to bring it every night."

Can anyone say, “Team Hardaway?”

But seriously, Frias adds that Hardaway is working on just having fun, regaining lost confidence, and taking on the role of a mentor by working with the Heat’s younger players.

Sun-Sentinel Miami Heat beat writer Ira Winderman had this to share after the Heat’s pre-season loss to the New Orleans Hornets (92-85) in Mississippi:

Penny Hardaway made his Heat debut (after missing the team’s first four games due to an injured quadriceps muscle) and played particularly well in the halfcourt game. At the end of the day, figure on Riley doing what he always does: getting rid of the kids (Jeremy Richardson, Devin Green) and keeping the veteran (Hardaway).

For Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway fans out there, let’s hope Pat Riley remains true to form.

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