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Penny Hardaway: Knee No Problem

July 6, 2001

PHOENIX (AP) _ Phoenix Suns guard Penny Hardaway, testing his left knee in the California summer basketball league, had no problem in his first game.

Hardaway had 20 points and nine assists Thursday at a game in Carson, Calif., his first extended return to organized basketball since January.

Hardaway, a few days from being 30, played 48 minutes and did not appear to labor or favor his surgically repaired left knee, The Arizona Republic reported. He also wore no protection on it.

``I called (Suns coach) Scott Skiles midway through the game and said, ’I think we’ve got good news,″ Suns president Bryan Colangelo told the newspaper.

``Outside of being rusty, basketball-wise, I was impressed with the way he was running, and he exploded a couple of times going into the lane.″

Hardaway was happy, too.

``I still have a long way to go, but this was a good first step,″ he said. ``I’m just going to try to play a lot of basketball and be ready going into the season.″

Hardaway underwent microfracture surgery and a cartilage cleanup following the 1999-00 season.

Colangelo saw still another positive facet to Thursday’s play.

``I didn’t see him favoring the knee like he did (in workouts before the playoffs),″ he said. ``It’s not only an issue of strength, it’s an issue of confidence.″

Hardaway agreed.

``I have a whole lot more confidence,″ he said. ``I’m not afraid to push off that leg anymore.″

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