With 15 years, seven teams and six playoff appearances under his belt since jumping from high schools to the pros in 1998, Al Harrington stands as the Washington Wizards‘ elder statesmen of sorts.
But Harrington isn’t content with simply serving as a voice from the bench and in the huddle. This much was clear in Friday’s 91-78 win against Indiana, when the stocky forward came off the bench to ignite the Wizards during the second quarter of a game that many thought would be decided by the up-tempo play of Washington’s younger athletes.
Beginning with a fadeaway jumper a little more than two minutes into the second period, Harrington scored 10 consecutive points for Washington, opening a double-digit lead with John Wall on the bench.
“I just played hard,” said Harrington, who finished with 12 points. “Whatever happens, happens at that point. You just try to go out and give your best effort on both ends of the floor and that’s usually when good things happen.”
During the 22 minutes 5 seconds Harrington was on the floor, the Wizards outscored the Pacers by 20 points. At some points, that margin came from a craftiness that left him in position for open shots. Other times, his impact came on defense, when he matched the physical play of Indiana’s David West and Paul George.
But Harrington got the most joy from a simple pass late in the third quarter. On a night when both teams shot under 40 percent from the field, the normally sharpshooting Trevor Ariza struggled in particular, going just 2 for 12 from the field. After Ariza passed up a three-pointer from the right wing, he fired a pass to Harrington along the baseline, who dribbled back out, drew in the defender and swung it back to Ariza, who drained a three that put the Wizards up by 16.
As Harrington backpedaled down the floor, he yelled excitedly in the direction of the Wizards bench, seemingly amped by another example of what his team was capable of as a unit.
With 10 games remaining and most of the Wizards starters having little to no playoff experience, Harrington knows he’s one of a few veterans who will be depended upon to rally Washington together for its first playoff appearance in six seasons.
On Friday, that dependence came by way of offense, with Harrington scoring in double digits for the second time in four games after hitting the mark just three previous times this season. Saturday’s contest against an Atlanta team vying for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot could mean another role for Harrington, who’s ready to fill in however and wherever necessary.
“Every day is a little something different,” Harrington said. “One day it’s talking to guys, another day it’s leading by example. I just try to be a positive influence, just whatever is called for for that day.”