A penny for your thoughts? Hardaway says he's a Star

ON THE NBA

February 07, 1997|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

There are a lot of people who feel that Orlando Magic guard Penny Hardaway should not be an All-Star. They base their argument on the fact that Hardaway, because of injuries, only played in 21 games during the first half of the season.

But don't expect Hardaway to make any apologies about representing the Eastern Conference in the starting lineup of Sunday's game in Cleveland.

"There's no debate [in my mind] at all," Hardaway said. "I'm healthy, I most likely would have made the team anyway. I belong there, and I'm happy to be there."

And Orlando is happy to have Hardaway back healthy, with the Magic vaulting right back into playoff position. In the 23 games without Hardaway, Orlando was 7-16 and had a 2-12 record for the month of December. With Hardaway, the Magic has a 17-4 record and right now is one of the hottest -- and more confident -- teams in basketball.

"We're as good as any team in the league right now," Hardaway said before last night's 119-111 win over Boston. "We're playing close to where we want to be right now. The last two games [wins over Houston and Indiana] shows that we are close. We're on our way."

While Hardaway is the key to the team's success, he has a lot of help. The biggest lift for an unselfish Orlando team was the November trade for Rony Seikaly. Though not nearly as dominant as his Magic predecessor Shaquille O'Neal, Seikaly provides steady play at center.

Don't be surprised if Orlando winds up competing with Miami and New York for the Atlantic Division title.

Garnett starry-eyed

Think it bothers Minnesota forward Kevin Garnett that he became an All-Star only after three of the Western Conference players pulled out with injuries?

"They could have hired me to be the towel boy," said Garnett, who finished fourth in voting. "Are you kidding? An All-Star, that's something everyone wants to be."

On Sunday, Garnett will become the second youngest All-Star ever. At 20 years, 8 months and 21 days, he'll be three months older than Magic Johnson was when he played in the 1980 game.

Garnett, who got a lot of criticism for bypassing college to play in the pros two years ago, will be younger than 13 of the 16 players competing in the Rookie Game. He's the first member of the 1995 rookie class (which featured Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse, Rasheed Wallace, Bryant Reeves and Damon Stoudamire) to be an All-Star.

Before this season, the Timberwolves never had an All-Star in their seven-year history. Now Minnesota has two -- former Bullet Tom Gugliotta also was selected.

Around the league

Miami Heat guard Dan Majerle watched last Sunday's game against Cleveland from the bench, three days after having back surgery. Majerle is hopeful of a return "between four and eight weeks."

When officials at the Miami-Cleveland game could not figure out who fouled Cavaliers guard Terrell Brandon, they asked him. Brandon said Alonzo Mourning and smiled -- which drew an unsportsmanlike technical from Ed Middleton, who thought he was being hoodwinked by the All-Star. But Mourning really did foul Brandon, so the technical was removed.

A few days after talking to a class of third-graders in Boston's Roxbury section, former Celtics forward Cedric Maxwell received a letter that read:

Dear Cedric Maxwell;

Thank you for coming too the class even though I wasn't here because I had the chicken pocks but I don't care because I don't like the Celtics so bye.

Sincerely, Derek.

When Chicago forward Dennis Rodman comes off his 11-game suspension for kicking a photographer, he begins a stretch where he will play 11 games for free. Each of the 11 designated charities will receive about $60,000.

If you're counting, the total tally in fines, lost wages, out-of-court settlement and charitable contributions will exceed $2 million.

Jerry Bembry can be reached via the Internet at Jeryol.com

Pub Date: 2/07/97

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