When Al Harrington got the call to enter the first half of Game 4 of the Washington Wizards‘ Eastern Conference semifinal series against Indiana, he didn’t immediately jog to the scorer’s table. Instead, the 15-year veteran made his way to the bike in the player tunnel and climbed on for a quick warmup.
“The one thing I try to ask Coach [Randy Wittman] or the staff is to just try to give me a heads-up just so I can ride the bike or do something,” Harrington said before Thursday’s shoot-around. “It’s hard to come in after sitting for hours. You’ve got to warm your body up and try to start up again. It’s not like I’m 20 years old anymore.”
Harrington, 34, invigorated the Wizards with a burst of fresh energy in Games 4 and 5, totaling 15 points and eight rebounds in 36 minutes after playing in just three of Washington’s previous eight playoff games. Like Drew Gooden, who has also sparked the Wizards off the bench this series, Harrington brings a physical presence and can also stretch the floor with his outside shooting.
In the last two games, the Wizards’ bench is averaging 22 points and 17 rebounds per game compared to 15.5 and 12.5, respectively, during the rest of the playoffs. The notion that the Wizards weren’t getting any help from their bench was one that Harrington took to heart and he expressed as much to his teammates prior to his Game 4 explosion.
“We took it personal,” Harrington said following Game 4. “A lot of people have been saying that their bench has been dominating us. Where has our bench gone and stuff like that. I tried to rile our guys up before this game and said we’re going to dominate their bench.”
Though the Wizards starters didn’t need much help during their Game 5 blowout win, Harrington knows from the experience of playing with veterans such as Derrick McKey and Sam Perkins during his own days with the Indiana Pacers that it’s critical for Washington’s reserves to stay ready to make an impact with their season again on the line in Thursday’s Game 6 — especially if he wants to make good on his vow to the Indiana crowd following Tuesday’s win that the Wizards will “be back Sunday.”
“I try to come out there with that no-holds-barred attitude and ready for whatever,” Harrington said. “It’s just mental and staying locked in and ready to produce when those big moments arise. I think last game [Indiana] probably didn’t play as hard they would have liked for a close-out game, so we’re just expecting them to give their best shot tonight.”
More on the Wizards and the NBA playoffs: