by Conrad Brunner
May 20, 2003
By the Numbers: After signing on March 27, appeared in 10 regular-season games, averaging 8.0 minutes, 2.2 points and 1.8 assists. Scored 14 points with seven assists in his debut against Chicago on March 28, but cracked double-digits just once more with 12 against New York on April 15.
Playoffs: In four appearances, averaged 11.8 minutes, 3.3 points and 2.3 assists. All of his points game in Game 5, when he had 13 points and six assists in 27 minutes to help spark a 93-88 victory.
Plus-Minus: During the regular season, ranked second at plus 45 (plus 4.5 per game). During the playoffs, ranked 10th at minus 20 (minus 5.0 per game).
Contract Status: Free agent.
Analysis: Signing a 36-year-old free agent who hadn’t played all season long entering the final month of the regular season was a risk, but it wasn’t entirely without reward. His conditioning was less of an issue than his battle-scarred knees, which prohibited him from putting together consistent games. No clearer example came in the playoffs, when he had a 13-point, 6-assist outing in a Game 5 victory, but that performance took so much out of his knees, he was only able to play 3 minutes in Game 6. In 14 total games with the Pacers (10 regular-season and four postseason), he had three games in which he totaled 39 points and 17 assists (averages of 13.0 and 5.7). In the other 11 appearances, he totaled 23 points and 16 assists (averages of 2.1 and 1.5). Though he still is an effective 3-point shooter, Hardaway found it increasingly difficult to compensate for his lack of mobility with sheer guile.
Crystal Ball: It’s possible he could stick around the league as a backup, but his inability to put together consecutive games in the brief stint with the Pacers doesn’t bode well for a six-month, 82-game season.
Final Grade: C-minus.