Wizards’ Al Harrington declares himself ready for New Orleans

Al Harrington
I’m ready. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

Newly acquired veteran backup point guard Andre Miller will end an absence from basketball of almost two months  when he makes his Wizards debut on Saturday against the New Orleans Pelicans. And, if Coach Randy Wittman gives him a shot, Al Harrington will also make his return to action after sitting out the past three months recovering from a troublesome right knee.

While discussing what affect his former teammate from Denver will have in Washington, Harrington declared himself available to play alongside Miller.

“I’m ready to play,” Harrington said. “Whenever Coach puts me out there.”

Harrington hasn’t played since since scoring eight points in Dallas on Nov. 12 and developing soreness in his right knee. The 15-year veteran had surgery to remove loose particles from the knee about a month later and has been on a strenuous rehabilitation program to get back this season.

Two weeks ago, Harrington said he would get back on the floor “soon” after the all-star break. Harrington returned to practice on Monday – the day after his 34th birthday – and believes he has done enough to go up against NBA competition.

“I know I could. I can compete with those guys,” Harrington said. “My shot is not as sharp as I would like it to be, but everything else I think I can do out there. It’s just a matter of time with me getting in shape and getting back out there.”

When asked if Harrington would play against the Pelicans, Wittman replied, “We’ll see.”

Harrington was brought to Washington to stretch the floor and provide perimeter scoring from the power forward position. He has only contributed a total of 55 points in seven games, but he also shot 42.9 percent (12 of 28) from long distance.

Wittman had settled into a rotation of relying mostly on Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin as the big men off the bench over the past few weeks. With most of the minutes tied up in a four-man rotation, former first-round pick Jan Vesely became expendable in the Miller deal.

“He’s practiced,” Wittman said of Harrington. “We don’t have a lot of time left, so the situation, he’s got to continue to work to get his conditioning back. I can utilize him in different ways. Well see where that is” on Saturday.

The trade for Miller freed up a roster spot, with Eric Maynor going to Philadelphia and Vesely going to Denver. President Ernie Grunfeld said on Thursday that the team wouldn’t tie any decisions for that spot based on what Harrington does over the next few weeks.

“We’re not going to necessarily use it right away, but it does give us more options and more flexibility if the right player comes available,” Grunfeld said. “I don’t think one player is going to affect what we do with that spot. When Al comes back, we’re going to have to see how he does and how he fits into things, but I don’t think Al’s particular situation is going to have that much of an impact on who we get or who we don’t get with that spot, if we get anybody.”

Harrington supported the move for Miller because it stresses the urgency of the team as the Wizards look to end a six-year postseason drought. He stated that the Wizards’ front office “has done everything to put us in playoff position right now. They gave us all the tools all the ingredients and now we just have to go out there and get it done. So it’s definitely on the players at this point. We just have to go out and compete. The thing is if we win the games we’re supposed to win down the stretch, we’ll be sitting pretty for the playoffs, so that’s what we have to focus on. Winning these games that we’re supposed to win.”

Michael Lee is the national basketball writer for The Washington Post.
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Michael Lee · February 21