Wade hoping Hardaway signing bolsters Heat
MIAMI -- Able to run and jump without pain for the first time in five years, Penny Hardaway insists there's still much he can do in the NBA.
The Miami Heat apparently agree.
Hardaway spoke Friday about his new contract with the Heat, one that comes with no financial guarantees for the 36-year-old who has battled knee problems for much of a career that once seemed destined for superstardom.
"I definitely have competitive juices flowing," Hardaway said. "The number one point for me coming back is to win a championship. I still love this game. It's not about the money. It's not about anything other than loving the game and wanting to win a ring and I'm just thankful that I'm able to play in an organization like the Miami Heat."
Hardaway purchased a home in the Pinecrest section of Miami two years ago and has been working out in South Florida for several months, but hasn't yet crossed paths with Heat center Shaquille O'Neal -- his former teammate with the Orlando Magic in the mid-1990s.
He simply cannot wait to officially begin the reunion, insisting the relationship is not frosty -- as has been perceived in recent years.
"I did speak to him last year when I was really trying to get into the league and I wanted to work out for the Heat," Hardaway said. "He and I had a long talk and had a great talk. Neither one of us has any hard feelings. We still care about each other."
O'Neal told the Heat that he approved of their plan to sign Hardaway before the agreement was finalized. Heat guard Dwyane Wade can also be counted among those also supporting the plan.
"What's there to lose? It's simple," Wade said. "I think both sides win."
The Heat truly have nothing to lose because the deal for the career 15.4-point scorer doesn't include any guaranteed money. It just gives Hardaway, who hasn't played in the NBA since November 2005 because of his knee problems, an opportunity to compete for minutes.
And since Miami is at the luxury-cap threshold already for next season, getting Hardaway on the Heat without any financial commitment before the season may eventually make the move a steal.
"I heard last year he was working out and wanted to come back," Wade said. "You hear it a lot. But I hear he's in shape, he's looking good and they're giving him an opportunity."
Hardaway had knee surgery to remove a bone spur from behind his knee in March 2006 -- which allowed him to finally begin working out without pain. Even walking had hurt, said Hardaway, who acknowledged that he often feared his career was over.
But he's dropped 23 pounds in recent months, getting down to 212 with low body fat, and has reportedly been impressive in workouts with other NBA players.
"It's been such a hard road to get to this point," said Hardaway, who also eyed the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics as possible destinations for his comeback try. "I had the same knee injury for so long. ... I just kept pushing. When it comes to the situation I'm in now, I'm so thankful and blessed to be allowed to come to the Heat organization."
Devin Green -- who said Hardaway was his favorite player growing up -- is getting a chance from the Heat as well.
The 6-foot-7 guard who played at Hampton signed Friday with Miami. Green was in training camp last year with the Los Angeles Lakers, started the regular season in the NBA Development League and finished the season in Germany. He made 27 NBA regular-season appearances with the Lakers two seasons ago, averaging about 1 point and 1 rebound in 5 minutes per game.
Green's signing means the Heat currently have 17 players under contract, not including backup center Earl Barron, a restricted free agent to whom the team has made a qualifying offer for the coming season.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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