Saving this Penny may not be worth it

On The NBA

May 23, 1999|By Jerry Bembry | Jerry Bembry,SUN STAFF

In the market for an old, tarnished, less than durable and useless Penny?

If you're an NBA owner and that's what you're looking for you might want to call Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos. That's because his once-valued Penny -- Penny Hardaway -- might have just worn out his welcome with a whiny, selfish tirade after Orlando was eliminated by Philadelphia in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.

It seems Hardaway got a bit upset after getting criticized for shooting 35.1 percent for the series, including a 3-for 17 outing in the elimination game against the Philadelphia 76ers.

When he took just 12 shots in a Game 3 loss, he blamed Chuck Daly for not getting him enough field-goal attempts, in a situation where all Hardaway had to do was get the ball and shoot. At least that's what the real NBA superstars do.

The day after Orlando was eliminated, Hardaway cried to the media, "It feels like they don't want me here, and it feels like I don't want to be here," and promised to opt out of his contract.

He also took a back-handed swipe at Daly, he of two NBA championships. While Daly wanted him to run the point this season, Hardaway rebelled.

"If I'm the so-called superstar, I should have the option to play point guard or two guard," Hardaway said. "I should have the option to play point or two guard. I shouldn't have people saying, `You shouldn't be a two.' I should be able to play wherever I want to play."

The next day, perhaps realizing only Orlando could pay the maximum seven years, $85 million under the new collective bargaining agreement, Hardaway called the Orlando Sentinel to apologize and explained the comments were blown out of proportion.

"If anything can be worked out, Orlando is still where I want to be," Hardaway told the paper.

The likely scenario: a sign-and-trade. Orlando management is fed up with Hardaway's crying. Already in possession of a premier coach in Daly, the Magic might be better off wishing the 27-year-old Hardaway -- a shell of his former self -- well.

"I think he's sending some pretty strong signals that he'd like to be somewhere else," DeVos said. "If that's the case, we'll help him do that."

Standing pat

While the Miami Heat suffered the embarrassment of becoming only the second No. 1 seed to lose to an eighth seed in the NBA playoffs, coach Pat Riley doesn't plan many major changes in the off-season.

After Miami was defeated by New York in the opening round of the playoffs, Riley said the nucleus of the team -- Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning -- will remain.

"One bounce of the ball, with eight-tenths of a second left in the game, is not going to deter me staying with these guys," Riley told Miami reporters, referring to Allan Houston's game-winning shot for the Knicks in Game 5. "We will improve because we will go out and augment the talent we have on this team. Heads are not rolling unless mine rolls."

Riley came to strong defense of Hardaway, whose turnover with his team clinging to a one-point lead led to Houston's game-winning basket.

"The most amusing thing I have read is about Tim Hardaway, and about the fact that there is somebody out there better than him, when this guy gave his heart and guts playing hurt most of the year," Riley said. "My objective with Tim Hardaway is to get him back to where he was two years ago, to try to get him healthy -- mind, body and spirit. I want to take this heavy pall that is hanging over his head by the public and move that from him."

Riley said he will also retain Dan Majerle, who suffered a separated right shoulder in the second quarter of Game 5.

"I want to go to my grave with Dan Majerle," Riley said.

Around the league

The Boston Celtics will re-retire the jersey of Hall of Fame center Bill Russell at the FleetCenter on Wednesday.

The problem with holding the event during the off-season, instead of at a game: As of last week, the Boston Globe reported only 3,000 tickets had been sold. Bill Cosby, Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis, Tom Brokaw and Bryant Gumbel are just a few of the celebrities expected to attend.

The Chicago Bulls participated in the draft lottery yesterday for the first time since 1989, when the team, selecting sixth, drafted Stacy King.

When the New York lost to Atlanta on March 22, the Knicks hit a Madison Square Garden-record-low 22 field goals. In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, Houston and Latrell Sprewell had 24 field goals combined, to the delight of a Georgia Dome crowd that seemed like Madison Square Garden South.

The scoring drought in the NBA this season was real, not imagined. Teams combined to score just over 91 points a game in the just-completed season, compared to 95.6 points last season. The NBA Rules and Competition committee will study possible rule changes that will steer play away from the methodical post-up game.

Just wondering loudly if there is any way of getting a recount on Scottie Pippen's inclusion among the NBA's 50 greatest players. With the exception of his 37-point breakout in a Game 3 win, Pippen was horrible in Houston's opening-round loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, shooting 32.9 percent from the field.

During the regular season, Pippen's scoring (14.5 points per game) was the lowest since his rookie season (7.9), and his 43.2 percent shooting percentage was the worst of his 12-year-career. The aging Rockets will have to get younger and stronger (it was sad to see how Hakeem Olajuwon was manhandled by Shaquille O'Neal) if they want to make a legitimate run at the title next season.

Pub Date: 5/23/99

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