Colin Cowherd: “When he came back that first year, people forget this. Your Magic BEAT those Chicago Bulls. It’s like that series never happen, it just disappeared into the ether. So, Michael comes back and you guys are the kings of the East. Was Michael still at his best? Was he working himself into shape?”
Penny Hardaway: “Michael was not at his best. He was not the Michael Jordan that we knew from all those years when he had a rhythm. When he came back he was rusty and rightfully so. He changed numbers – he was wearing 45 because of his baseball number, and then he changed to ‘23’ in Game 2, where he played a better game but you could tell he was very rusty. He did not like the new arena. He was an ‘Old Chicago Stadium’ guy, and the United Center was not his type of building when he first came back. He was having problems shooting the ball off the glass, he didn’t like the rims, and he didn’t like the bigger arena. It was a lot of things that were a factor for us, for sure, and he wasn’t himself. All those things were working against them and working for us and we beat them in that series.” (Full Interview Above)
Jordan, of course, had just ended his 17-month retirement after missing the entire 1993-1994 season, and 65 games of the 1994-1995 season, but many forget his Bulls were defeated in the second round by the memorable 1995 Orlando Magic who boasted Hardaway, Shaquille O’Neal, Dennis Scott, Nick Anderson, and Horace Grant.
The Bulls would acquire Dennis Rodman in the offseason that year, and return the next season to sweep Orlando in the East Finals.
Check out the interview above as Penny details why they were facing off against a different version of Jordan than we were used to that year, and describes how Jordan used the bitterness from those playoffs to get his revenge the next season.