It started with a common knee surgery that led to a staph infection, which kept him out until after the All Star Game last season. Combine that with the fact Orlando really wanted to play its young guys and you end up with Al Harrington playing in just 10 games for the Magic. And being frustrated.
Harrington has two years, $14.7 million left on his contract and doesn’t fit Orlando’s rebuilding plans. They’d like to trade him, but he’s really more attractive to teams as a buyout option — only half his salary is guaranteed. No team is going to take on that salary if they don’t think he can contribute because that’s the new NBA where contract value matters more.
To prove he can contribute, Harrington dropped 27 pounds to take pressure off his knee, he told Sam Amick at the USA Today.
“It’s been hard work,” Harrington, who gained all of his weight back and more last season, said of his road back. “I started on April 26. That’s the day I got in the gym, and I’ve been in here ever since. I really had no time off, just been grinding and trying to lose the weight. I feel like the lighter I am the more pressure I take off my knee, you know what I mean? So that was the focus behind losing the weight, and then just being strong.
“I’ve lost 27 pounds. I’m on my way down. I had to do it, and I’m focused. I’ve got a lot left in the tank. I’m only 33 years old, and people act like I’m 40. I’m just excited about getting back out there on the court and showing everybody. For me, this year I’m going to have a chip on my shoulder, so if I play like that I’m going to be tough to deal with.”
He likely will get a shot, although it could be on a minimum deal after his contract is bought out.
Just two seasons ago in Denver Harrington averaged 14.2 points a game, was a respectable threat from three and had a PER of 15.3, right at the league average. If his shot has returned he’s the kind of veteran that could help a contending team off the bench… just not likely at his current salary. Welcome to the new CBA.
It’s a situation to keep your eye on. If the Magic start giving him a lot of preseason minutes, it’s likely as a showcase to other teams so they know what he can do.