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Friday, August 10, 2007

Comebackitis: The New Fever Sweeping Across the NBA!

It started with Reggie Miller but now Penny Hardaway and Allan Houston are also considering making comebacks to the NBA. What in the name of Han "I'm out of it for a little while and everybody gets delusions of grandeur" Solo is going on here? Hardaway is officially back, signing with the Miami Heat and thus reuniting with his old Orlando Magic teammate Shaquille O'Neal. No word yet on whether Li'l Penny is also coming out of retirement. Houston apparently has been working out this summer and he believes that he can be a contributing player off of the bench for a winning team.

Hardaway and Houston are each 36, nearly six years younger than Miller is, but unlike Miller both of them have had microfracture surgery. Hardaway's last reasonably healthy season was 2003-04 and the last time he averaged double figures in scoring was 2002-03; he averaged 2.5 ppg in four games in 2005-06, his last season. Similarly, Houston's last healthy season was 2002-03, when he averaged a career-high 22.5 ppg--but Houston scored just 11.9 ppg in only 20 games in 2004-05, his last season. Hardaway has been talking about coming back for quite some time, claiming that his knees are healthy and that he is in great condition. When he was healthy, he was a very skillful and exciting player to watch; Hardaway has an excellent understanding of how to play and if he can stay healthy--a big if--then he could be productive as a role player. Houston was really laboring to get up and down the court the last time that we saw him. If his wheels are sound then he, like Hardaway, could be a solid contributor. Unlike Miller, these guys are young enough to reasonably believe that they can play guard in the NBA. The big question for both of them is if their injury-riddled bodies can withstand the rigors of an 82 game season.

Hardaway is the most intriguing story of the three right now because he is the only one who has actually signed with a team and because he has--or at least had--the best all-around game of this trio; he could play point guard and shooting guard and even some small forward in a pinch, with the ability to score, pass, rebound and defend. Of course, a lot of those skills were greatly diminished by the time he retired a couple years ago but it will certainly be interesting to see how he, O'Neal and Dwyane Wade interact. O'Neal and Hardaway did not get along very well the first time around, but O'Neal has said that he is on board with the Hardaway signing and one would think that both players have matured a lot since their Orlando days.

All we need now is for Kobe Bryant to go to Miami and Stephon Marbury to go to Boston to reunite with Kevin Garnett and then the circle of NBA life will truly be complete! Obviously, neither of those things will happen and I think that it is only slightly more likely that Miller or Houston will actually play in 2007-08.

posted by David Friedman @ 5:59 AM



At Saturday, August 11, 2007 12:10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems like "comebackitis" is a symptom of a bigger malady - cap inflexibility. Look at all these contract buyouts, too. Time was, you were on the hook for a bad signing as long as the contract lasted. Now teams and players seem to be conspiring on detours around that, under a variety of pretexts. Got an injury? An issue? Retire or take the parachute, then wander somewhere else to poach a title. Can't say I like it.

Between short-sighted GMs like Ainge (the man who signed Vin Baker, for God's sake) and the success of the Heat, I fear we'll see more of this Rent-A-Player philosophy. Hopefully it won't be rewarded.

At Sunday, August 12, 2007 6:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that cap inflexibility is the major feature in roster building these days, but until these old horses do indeed come back, I am not sure this is a real symptom.

When I was young it was Bob McAdoo who was coming back for the Lakers. Then it was Magic and Bird and Jordan (and Jordan, and Jordan). Then it was Barkley, and Rodman, and Pippen.

It's summertime and there's little to report but newspaper pages won't fill themselves. So let's spin a little comeback.

At Sunday, August 12, 2007 12:45:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Penny is actually back--or at least under contract. We'll have to wait and see about the other guys. As both of you mentioned--and as I've alluded to in some posts--the NBA's current salary structure often leads to teams paying mega-dollars to two or three guys and then finding "fillers" to complete the roster, although the
"afterthought" money nowadays is more than some great players made in their entire careers (in earlier eras). Don't discount the big dollars being a factor in this. We used to be told that the big money contracts would lead to players retiring younger but the opposite has proven to be the case; players are playing longer and/or coming back because the money is so good--even the veteran's minimum and mid-level exceptions are more than these guys (or just about anyone else) can make in any other field.


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