Penny Hardaway, current coach of the Memphis Tigers, was once one of the NBA’s most promising guards. Considered by many to be the next Magic Johnson, Hardaway could do almost everything on the court offensively thanks to his tall height and varied skillset.
Unfortunately for him, injuries derailed what was once a promising career. By the time his tenures with the Magic and Suns were done, his NBA career was pretty close to over. Another tall and lengthy generational talent is currently dealing with a potential career changing injury in Warriors star Kevin Durant.
When Hardaway saw Durant go down with an Achilles injury in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, he could relate to it. Many have felt Durant tried to rush back from a calf injury in order to play in the NBA Finals and his desire to come back too quickly helped lead to that injury.
While nobody except Durant and the Warriors know whether that is true, one thing Hardaway is begging Durant to do is not rush back from this injury. Doing just that is what ruined his own career, as he told The Daily Memphian.
“I came back too soon,” Hardaway said. “I really just wanted to be out there. I was thinking me at 70% was better than not being on the court at all. I rushed it a couple of times. It really put me behind the eight ball the rest of my career.”
Hardaway also understands the pressures a player feels to try and get back as soon as possible. He felt it in Orlando and Phoenix. In my opinion, the pressure he felt in Orlando is part of what eventually forced him out of town.
“You’re thinking you can make a difference,” Hardaway said. “You hear all the chatter. The media is calling him soft and he’s going to leave the team. There’s nothing worse than being really, really injured and people questioning you. Then you’re saying ‘I can’t even go’ and then you force yourself to go and this happens. That’s not good at all.”
This is a relatable situation for Hardaway, a great player that had injuries derail his career and compounded those problems by coming back too quickly. He doesn’t want Durant to make that same mistake. He wants to see him rest up as long as necessary so he can return to basketball at full health. It’s what’s best for not only him, but everybody that loves basketball. We all want Durant to have a long and great career. The longer he rests the better.