I'm betting Al Harrington's biggest critic from the 2010-11 season would be ... Al Harrington. The forward's first season, of a contractual five, in Denver was marred with injuries and inconsistency. Harrington went from being a volume scorer with the Knicks during the 2009-10 campaign to struggling to earn minutes with the Nuggets last season. What does the future hold for the offensive minded shooter?
6'9’’ 250 lbs.
Turns 32-years-old February 17, 2012
Experience: The 2011-12 season will be Harrington's 14th in the NBA.
Contract status: Harrington has 4 years and roughly $27.5 million remaining on his deal.
Overview of 2010-11 season:
Without question there are 14 year-old kids out there right now who college scouts and pro scouts have their eyes on, 14 years - the amount of time Harrington has been in the league. The New Jersey native has spent nearly 50% of his life being a professional basketball player and he has really come a long way since his first days in the league. Whenever Reggie Miller was broadcasting Nuggets games last year he never failed to mention how he would routinely take Harrington to school after practice with the Indiana Pacers in shooting contests. Learning shooting tips from Miller must not have been a bad thing, as Harrington likes to shoot the ball from just about anywhere on the court.
I felt after the Nuggets signed Big Al that George Karl finally had the Sam Perkins type big that could stretch the floor in his offense and create even more room for drives to the lane by Ty Lawson and for post play for Nene. Plantar fasciitis in Al's left foot slowed him in the off-season and was an injury he re-aggravated in the preseason against the Portland Trail Blazers. The question the fans began asking was ... is the foot the problem or is Al being out of shape the real issue? No matter what the deal was, it really ruined his first season in Denver and kept Harrington from being a key contributor for the Nuggets before the big Melo trade. And then the depth that came to the team after the Melo deal really buried #7 even deeper in Karl's rotation.
When Harrington did play, he took plenty of shots (as he has always been a volume shooter) and didn't seem to do much else to help out the team. Before the season began, Al talked at length about helping the Nuggets on the defensive end and how he had been mislabeled because of his two previous all-offense systems in New York and Golden State. But that talk seemed to be just that ... talk.
There was no doubt that Harrington is well liked by his teammates and while he might be able to lighten the mood, could he be somebody the team can count on to lead young guys the right way? Kenneth Faried and Jordan Hamilton will both look to the veteran for tips on how to make it in the NBA and he will have an influence on their careers.
Harrington played in a total of 73 regular season games last year for the Nuggets and in all five of Denver's playoff games (though very sporadic minutes).
Minutes: 22.8 per game (29.3 career)
FG: 41.6% (44.6% career)
FT: 73.5% (73%)
Free Throw attempts per game: 2.9 attempts (3.1)
Three-point: 35.7% (35.6%)
Three-point attempts: 4.5 attempts (2.7)
Steals: 0.5 per game (0.9)
Blocks: 0.1 (0.3)
Assists: 1.4 per game (1.7)
Rebounds: 4.5 per game (5.7)
Offensive boards: 1.0 (1.6)
Defensive boards: 3.5 career-high (4.1)
Scoring: 10.5 ppg (13.8)
Positives / What he brings:
As I mentioned above, Harrington seems like a good character guy and a teammate that others look to to not only lighten the mood, but also for advice on how to also have a long NBA career. Will Harrington have the same positive effects on the young Nuggets as Reggie Miller likes to claim he had on Harrington's career? On a team that doesn't have a lot of veteran influence, especially at the big man spots if Kenyon Martin and Nene leave town, it'll be up to Big Al to become Father Al to Faried, Hamilton, Timofey Mozgov, and Kosta Koufos. But Harrington also needs to work on his own game and survival.
Last season we saw a drop in Harrington's minutes after Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler came aboard and with a healthy front-court of K-Mart and Birdman. The 31 year-old forward will turn 32 during the season and not only is the NBA a young man's game, but the Nuggets are a young team that doesn't have time to cater to aging players that are not willing to do the little things.
Harrington has the ability to cover guys like Dirk Nowitzki and to be a better rebounder than he showed last season. He will have to get back to doing the little things and tighten up his shot selection if he wants to help out this Nuggets team. He has shown a great ability to shoot his way into the lineup and he can be a key contributor off the bench as a primary scoring big with the second unit. Father time is no player's friend, but Harrington's ability to stretch the floor will allow him to keep serving a role with the team.
Negatives / What needs to improve:
As mentioned in the positives, Harrington has the ability to defend and rebound, but does he still possess the effort to do so? If Harrington is unwilling to do the little things that Karl asks, I'm sure Faried and Hamilton will gladly eat his minutes. Faried is known for being a hustler and an agitator on the defensive end, so I have a feeling that once Karl sees him in practice that he's going to fall in love with his game. This isn't good news for Big Al as both men stand around 6'8'' tall.
There were plenty of times last season when Harrington entered the game and would quickly exit because of foul trouble or because he was jacking up too many shots ... make or miss. On a team looking to develop some offensive weapons I don't see the coaching staff having a long leash for a guy who is just looking to score. If the Nuggets were to lose Nene and K-Mart (doomsday scenario) there might be an opening in the starting lineup for Harrington to lose ... scary thought, right?
Al isn't the most willing or best passer either. His game, at this stage of his career, is best suited for short stretches where he can come in and score a bit, rebound a bit, and prevent his opponent from scoring. Sounds like pretty basic basketball and that's exactly right. The second unit's job is to make a comeback or keep the lead the starters generated ... and if possible stretch that lead as well. It sounds simple, but getting good all around effort from your bench is not always the easiest of tasks.
Outlook for 2011-12 season:
In an ideal world (Nate's World) the Nuggets will be able to re-sign Nene and slide him over to power forward. Then have a position battle in training camp to see if Mozgov or Koufos will be the starting center to go along with Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, and Gallo in the starting lineup. The bench would feature, at least, Andre Miller, Hamilton, Faried, Harrington, Birdman and one or two other faces.
Harrington is a pretty good guy to have coming off the bench. I have a feeling that Big Al will be working to become Skinny Al so that he will be able to again be a reliable player that his coaches can turn to. If Harrington doesn't do so out of pride, then I at least expect him to come into camp with a different body because he knows there will be competition and maybe a possibility to catch on with a contender later in the season if a trade comes Denver's way (and in that perfect world the Nuggets will again be in playoff contention).
There is no question that Big Al will be able to shoot when he returns to action, but will he be ready and able to do the little things? He better make it so.
Making a return to Twitter is Mr. Harrington - with the handle: @cheddahcheese7
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