Lost amid all the Lockout panic was the fact that Penny Hardaway was coming off potential career-ending left knee surgery. In a way, Anfernee would never be the same again after that first of a career 4 knee surgeries. But the fact he'd come back and play all 50 games of the '98-'99 season is something to admire. The work stoppage truly was a hidden blessing for Orlando's All-Star guard. It all began in Houston, at that cancer charity event. Penny would post 19 points in a 170-168 'victory'. This is also where Hardaway was trying to recruit Ike Austin.
HOUSTON - A group of NBA players took a timeout from their labor problems with league owners to put on a charity basketball game Friday night at the University of Houston's Hofheinz Pavilion.
For one night everything seemed right in the world of the NBA. There was no talk of lockouts, salary caps or union decertification. It was clearly a case of the show must go on.
``This was great, I'm sure nobody expected a player turnout like this,'' Magic guard Nick Anderson said.
In this particular show the least important part of it was the score, which was 170-168 in favor of Gallery Furniture, the sponsor for the team that included Magic guards Penny Hardaway and Anderson.
Hardaway finished with 19 points, including 13 in the third quarter when he helped his team wipe out an 85-64 halftime deficit. Anderson finished with seven points, all of which came in the first half.
``It was just fun to be out there and see all of the NBA players together,'' Hardaway said. ``Even though it's just an exhibition game, it's always fun to win. That's why in the third quarter I told [San Antonio point guard) Avery Johnson, `Let's try to make a run,' because I knew that late in the game, nobody was going to be serious.''
All together 23 NBA players and two rap artists participated in the All-Star benefit game, which raised money for M.D. Anderson Cancer research.
An estimated 10,000 people paid from $40 to $50 per ticket to get into the game.
Former Houston Rockets star and current University of Houston Cougars first-year Coach Clyde ``The Glide'' Drexler served as honorary coach of the winning Gallery team. He jokingly said afterward: ``That was the hardest I've ever had to work in a basketball game in my life.''
West Side Tennis Club, which has been host of a fall NBA recreation league during the lockout, was largely responsible for making this game possible. The West squad was led by rap artist Silkk, who had 27 points. The Gallery squad also included a celebrity rap artist, Master P, who did not arrive until the third quarter, but finished with 25 points.
Former Rockets guard and one-time Magic player Kenny Smith served as the honorary coach for the West Side club, which also included Minnesota Timberwolves point Stephon Marbury, who scored 14 of his 22 points to lead the first-half charge.
Players were given appearance fees ranging from $2,000 to $10,000. But the biggest beneficiary from the night's events may not have been the area cancer research center or the players. But the fans.
From the Magic's standpoint, it was a huge benefit for them as well.
Not only did Hardaway use this as another means to sharpen his game after having endured back-to-back seasons with knee problems, he used this opportunity to recruit free-agent center Isaac Austin, who scored 17 points for the game winners.
Said Hardaway: ``I had been preaching to Ike all day, trying to get him to come to Orlando. He told me that he's coming. That would be great.''
NOTE: Amid growing concern that the season will be in jeopardy if the labor dispute runs into December, the chief negotiators for the NBA owners and the players have tentatively set meetings for this weekend in Manhattan.