The Wizards brought Al Harrington to Washington to be a so-called “stretch four.” But through his first four preseason games, the 6-foot-9 Harrington has shown that he is more than just a spot-up shooter who had spread the floor and hit three three-pointers.
Harrington missed both of his three-point attempts in the Wizards’ 93-89 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday at Rupp Arena, but he still led all reserves in scoring with 13 points because of his ability to attack the basket.
“That’s something they was giving to me, because they were trying to run me off the three,” Harrington said of his decision to be more aggressive getting to the hoop. “Whenever that happens, I can handle the ball. That’s why I got to attack the rim and if nobody stops, lay it up. If not, kick it to somebody open.”
Harrington connected on 5 of 9 from the field against New Orleans, with all of his made baskets coming from within five feet. But he hasn’t lasted 15 years in the NBA – and averaged in double figures for 11 of them – by being one-dimensional.
His offensive range has helped Harrington remain effective in the preseason as he continues to sharpen his accuracy from long distance. Aside from going 3-for-6 from long distance in the Wizards’ win against Miami, Harrington has gone 0-for-7 from three-point land in his other three games. He is averaging 10 points per game.
Last season, Harrington played in just 10 games for the Orlando Magic and posted the lowest scoring average (5.1 points) since he was an 18-year-old rookie, fresh out of high school, with the Indiana Pacers. After spending his entire offseason losing weight and recovering from a career-threatening knee injury, Harrington struggled with his conditioning through the first few practices at training camp.
Harrington also missed the Wizards’ loss to Chicago in Brazil as he dealt with a sore left quad, but he said his performance against the Pelicans is a reflection of his progress. “I think I’m just getting in better shape. That’s all it is. And the better shape I’m in, the more I can do. Or at the end of the day, I’m willing to try it, at full speed. I think that’s the biggest thing. I’m starting to feel better.”
Coach Randy Wittman, who was critical of Harrington’s conditioning before the team started practicing at George Mason, noticed more bounce in his step. “He’s starting to get his legs under him,” he said. “We got another couple of weeks here, 10 days, or whatever it is, for him to continue that, but he gave us good solid minutes” against the Pelicans.
Harrington had options to sign elsewhere after the Magic released him last August, but he chose to sign with the Wizards because he had confidence in the direction of the franchise.
“Obviously they had a rough patch with some knuckleheads and stuff like that, but for the most part, they’ve been trying to put a product out there to win games,” Harrington said, recently. “And to see how they finish last year, knowing Nene, knowing how good John [Wall] could be, seeing that Bradley Beal is a superstar in the making also, why wouldn’t you want to play with these guys? And then you’ve got Kevin [Seraphin], Jan [Vesely]. It’s just a great young nucleus here and then you add myself, and Trevor [Ariza] and Martell [Webster] and all these guys to the mix, I think we can do something special this year.”
Harrington admitted that it was hard to ignore some of the nonsense that the Wizards have to deal with over the past five seasons of losing basketball. “Of course, because it was everywhere. It was on TV all the time,” Harrington said. “We talk in the locker room and stuff like that. So obviously, not to name names or whatever but all that garbage is out and now it’s a new regime. I think they got the right character guys and these fans are going to have something to be proud of a lot of years to come.”