A possible trade of Penny Hardaway was the hot topic of the night. It was a scary topic, too, as far as his teammates were concerned.
"If they let my boy go, they might as well close this down," teammate Nick Anderson said Wednesday night as the Magic, playing without the injured Hardaway, defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 96-89. "It isn't going to be the same. Let's not make two mistakes here."
Anderson was referring to Shaquille O'Neal's departure for Los Angeles two summers ago. Now the Magic could be about to lose a second franchise player from a group that once seemed on the verge becoming the NBA's team of the '90s.
One deal in the works would send Hardaway to the New Jersey Nets in a three-team trade that would include Damon Stoudamire going to Orlando.
"I don't know anything else about what's going on," Hardaway said after the game, a therapeutic device attached to his ailing calf. "Hopefully I'll know more (Thursday)."
"I really don't want to play in New Jersey," he said. ``I don't want to go somewhere where I don't want to be."
"It's just a crazy thought," Anderson said after scoring a season-high 28 points to go with 11 rebounds. "I can speak for the rest of these guys in this locker room. It's a crazy thought. ... I need Penny Hardaway like people in here need ice water."
Hardaway, the 6-foot-7 All-Star guard, watched the game from the bench after straining a calf muscle in Tuesday night's ugly 85-66 loss at Indiana. He said before the game he expected to be traded, but insisted it would be against his wishes because he wants to finish his career with Orlando.
The speculation didn't distract the Magic during the game, with Anderson scoring 20 points in the second half. Charles Outlaw had 14 points and 12 rebounds for Orlando.
"It's a miracle win," coach Chuck Daly said. "A flat-out miracle win for us, after the way we played (Tuesday) night."
Kevin Garnett, in his first game since starting in Sunday's All-Star game, led the Wolves with a season-high 29 points and 12 rebounds. Terry Porter had 18 points off the bench, and Stephon Marbury scored 13 points on 5-for-21 shooting for Minnesota, which played its fourth straight game without leading scorer Tom Gugliotta.
The loss was only the third in 13 home games for Minnesota.
"Everything was flat tonight, the rotation shaky," Garnett said, referring to Gugliotta's absence. "When a great player is gone, other teams make an adjustment. We have to do that."
The Magic held the Wolves to a season-low 15 points in the first quarter and led 44-35 at halftime. Orlando then opened the third quarter on a 9-1 run, including five straight points by Anderson, to take its biggest lead, 53-36, with 9:06 left in the quarter.
Then Garnett took over, scoring the final nine in an 11-0 Minnesota run. Anderson scored 11 of Orlando's last 14 points in the quarter to help te Magic regain a nine-point lead heading into the final period.
Garnett came alive again, scoring the final eight in a 9-2 run. He capped it with an alley-oop slam off a pass from Porter to make it 70-68 with 8:30 remaining.
Orlando answered with an 11-2 run, the last six by Derek Harper, to push the lead back to double figures. The Wolves never got closer than seven after that.
"I think it was my fault because my part wasn't held up," Marbury said. "It was a team effort, but when a guy goes down your next top scorer has to step up. I didn't contribute at all."
Notes: After missing the three games before the All-Star break with bone chips in his right ankle, Gugliotta is seeing specialists this week and could need surgery, which would keep him out up to eight weeks. "I told the guys there's a strong possibility he might not be around," coach Flip Saunders said. ... Harper hit his 1,000th career 3-pointer in the second quarter, making him the 10th player in NBA history to reach that plateau. ... The Wolves missed 16 of their first 17 shots to start the game, yet trailed only 12-5 at that point. ... The Magic are 17-4 when leading at halftime.
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