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Assessing the odds of some ex-stars returning to NBA

Posted: Tuesday August 14, 2007 12:46PM; Updated: Tuesday August 14, 2007 2:46PM
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Twenty years after his rookie season, Reggie Miller is considering returning to pursue a championship with the Celtics.
Twenty years after his rookie season, Reggie Miller is considering returning to pursue a championship with the Celtics.
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Reggie Miller. Penny Hardaway. Allan Houston. Scottie Pippen. Shawn Kemp. Charles Oakley.

The NBA comeback trail has become crowded over the past two years, with several formerly gimpy or aged ex-stars either trying to return or seriously thinking about it.

Miller is far and away the most intriguing name to come up. The Celtics contacted the former Pacers great to see if he'd be interested in providing some floor spacing for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen next season. Apparently a team can't have too many Hall of Famers.

Of course, that's what the Lakers thought a few years ago when Karl Malone and Gary Payton agreed to join Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant. L.A. wound up losing to the Pistons in the Finals.

Here's a look at the six high-profile comebacks in the pipeline, and their chances of happening:

Reggie Miller
25 percent
The skinny: Miller, who turns 42 on Aug. 24, says he isn't sure yet whether he wants to try a comeback two years into his retirement. He already has a comfy gig as a TNT analyst. Plus, he'd have to don Celtics green after all those years in Hoosier gold. Assuming he could get past that fashion hurdle, however, Miller might be tempted. The lure of winning that elusive championship ring has to be strong. But there's no guarantee Boston will even win the East next season, let alone the title, and there is a real risk that Miller would find himself a glorified decoy on a team with three All-Stars. For that reason, we're guessing he sticks to teaming up with Kenny and Sir Charles instead.

Penny Hardaway
100 percent
The skinny: Hardaway, 36, has signed with the Heat for next season, achieving his goal of at least getting back on an NBA roster. Hardaway, a four-time All-Star who hasn't played since November 2005 because of knee injuries, says he is pain-free for the first time in five years and willing to play any kind of role to help Miami win a championship. Say this much for Hardaway: He's not doing it for the money. The contract is not guaranteed, meaning Penny will have to earn every cent.

Allan Houston
75 percent
The skinny: Houston says the arthritic left knee that forced him to retire two years ago is feeling better. At 36 he admits he's not capable of logging 40 minutes a game, but he says he wants to play a serious role or he won't bother. With so many teams in need of good outside shooting -- the defending East champion Cavs, for instance, reportedly have expressed interest -- he just might be able to get his wish.

Scottie Pippen
1 percent
The skinny: The soon-to-be 42-year-old former Bulls star made headlines during All-Star Weekend in February when he said he wanted to come back (he never signed with any team). At the time, Pippen was being sued by a bank for $5 million over a dispute involving a loan, so it's possible he just needed the money. At any rate, Pippen now says he no longer is interested in playing in the NBA. Still, we'll give him a 1 percent chance in honor of his former teammate Michael ("I'm 99 percent certain retired") Jordan.

Charles Oakley
5 percent
The skinny: Apparently working at the car wash ain't what it used to be. The 44-year-old Oakley, who has been out of the league three years, told the Toronto Star recently he wanted to get back. He even listed several teams, among them the Knicks, Cavs and Mavs, who "needed" his toughness. Whether Oakley was serious -- or perhaps just trying to tweak his good pal Pippen -- remains to be seen. But he should remember that at his age owning car washes is a lot easier on the body than banging with NBA power forwards on a nightly basis.

Shawn Kemp
Chances: 10 percent
The skinny: Believe it or not, there are still reports a slimmer Reign Man, last seen plodding up and down the court for the Magic in 2002-03, might get an invite to somebody's camp this October. Of course, that was the story last summer too before Kemp, 37, got busted on a drug charge. Maybe the Sonics' new ownership group can bring him back as a final going-away present to Seattle fans before moving the franchise to Oklahoma City.