Penny Hardaway waived by Heat, making room for Luke Jackson

Updated: December 12, 2007, 3:50 PM ET
Associated Press

MIAMI -- Penny Hardaway's comeback attempt with the Miami Heat has ended.

The 36-year-old forward was waived Wednesday, a move that cleared the roster spot Miami needed to sign another former first-round draft pick -- guard Luke Jackson. But the Heat haven't ruled out bringing Hardaway back in some capacity.

"It was a business decision more than anything else," Heat coach Pat Riley said. "We tried to do something last week. We couldn't. But you never know. He may be back. We'll just see what happens over the next month."

Hardaway signed a non-guaranteed contract with Miami this summer after recovering from an array of injuries that kept him off the court for nearly three full seasons. He started eight times this season, but averaged only 3.8 points on 37 percent shooting, and didn't play in any of Miami's past four games.

"It was a tough, tough move," said Riley, whose team is off to a 6-15 start.

Agent Jeff Wechsler said Hardaway was "very, very appreciative of the chance he got" from Riley and Miami owner Micky Arison, and that he intends to keep playing -- somewhere.

"He worked hard all summer, he worked hard through training camp and played well for them," Wechsler said. "He's getting everything back to where he needs to be."

Hardaway has a 15.2 point-per-game average in 704 career regular-season games. He was told of Miami's decision Wednesday morning before practice. He could be claimed off waivers by another team within a 48-hour window, although it's unclear if any other clubs will have interest.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade said he hopes to see Hardaway playing somewhere.

"I don't think he worked this hard for it to be the end," Wade said. "I think he's going to continue to try to play somewhere else. I think Penny will be best on a team that's really winning and have that veteran team where he can come in and help them. It's kind of tough on a team that's struggling like us. We need a lot of things right now."

Hardaway showed flashes of production with Miami: His 6-for-6, 16-point night in New Jersey on Nov. 17 keyed a 91-87 Heat victory.

In the four weeks that have followed, he managed a total of 19 points.

The once-electric guard was a fast-rising star when he entered the NBA for the 1993-94 season. One year later, he and Shaquille O'Neal brought an Eastern Conference championship to Orlando.

But knee problems kept Hardaway to 59 games in 1996-97, then surgery limited him to 19 games the following year. In the years that followed, he's battled plantar fasciitis, more knee surgery, thumb surgery and even more knee surgery.

He worked through all that and earned a shot with Miami. But when the Heat decided it wanted Jackson -- who essentially plays the same position -- it deemed Hardaway expendable.

"If we were 15-6, I wouldn't have made the move," Riley said. "I brought Penny in here knowing that he was going to give us experience, intelligence, basketball IQ, all of those things and some skill to facilitate Dwyane and Shaquille. This is not his fault. It's nothing he didn't do."

So now, Miami will see what kind of offensive boost the 26-year-old Jackson can provide.

Jackson was the 10th overall pick by Cleveland in the 2004 draft, then played only 10 games that year for the Cavaliers. The former Oregon star also has played with the Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors, plus done stints in the NBDL.

Jackson signed with the Idaho Stampede last week, scored 30 points in his first game with that club, then left the team for his workout with the Heat.

"It's been a tough journey to get here but I feel like I'm better for that," Jackson said. "So hopefully this is my time and there's a spot for me here to contribute."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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