Suns News -- Hardaway Blowing His Cover

Hardaway blowing his cover

Bob Young
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 14, 2001

SEATTLE -- If Michael Jordan hadn't decided to come out of retirement for a second time this season, Penny Hardaway's comeback might be the talk of the NBA right now.

But Hardaway says he would like to keep it quiet.

"I'm OK," Hardaway said. "I've had that attention before. I know Michael welcomes it, but I don't welcome it. Of course, you want people to notice you're back and you're playing well just to be respected. Because I was an All-Star, a first-team All-NBA guy. But I don't need the media putting a spotlight on me."

It's inevitable if Hardaway keeps playing as he did Tuesday night in a 92-91 victory at Seattle. He was the difference at crunch time as the Suns found a way to win, scoring five of his 26 points and making a key pass that led to two free throws from Jake Tsakalidis that won the game.

"Penny made three or four big offensive plays for us when we had to have them," Suns coach Scott Skiles said. "He's been outstanding. He's a guy who knows how to play out there, and guys like that are becoming more and more rare in this league."

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Working out with Jordan for a month in Chicago as Jordan prepared for his comeback aided his own comeback, Hardaway said.

"You know, I was telling somebody in Chicago I'd like to be the Comeback Player of the Year, and then I remembered Michael was coming back," Hardaway said, popping himself on the forehead.

"The thing I really want to do is make the All-Star team and have an All-Star season. If I do that, then I know my team is going to be winning. I just want to have the best season I can have for this organization."

But Hardaway said he was praying for somebody else late in the game - Tsakalidis. The Suns center had missed his first four free throws and needed to make one to tie, two for the lead with 4.7 seconds to play.

"I was praying for one, and he got two," Hardaway said. "That was huge for this franchise. We fought and fought and fought, and we needed to win that game."

Skiles said he never doubted Tsakalidis would make the shots.

"He was due," Skiles joked.

COPYRIGHT 2001, AZCENTRAL.COM. Used with permission.