Al Harrington says he dropped 27 pounds, wants to be on a contender

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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.

Adam Silver backs Knicks center Enes Kanter’s decision to skip London trip

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LONDON (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the safety and security of players will always be paramount for the league after New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel to London for his team’s game against the Washington Wizards.

Kanter said he feared he could be attacked or killed over his opposition to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he were to travel to London. Istanbul-based newspaper Daily Sabah reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter by Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday.

Silver, speaking ahead of Thursday’s game, says “it was never a suggestion from the league that (Kanter) was not welcome on this trip.”

“There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver says.

Kanter, who has frequently criticized Erdogan, had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017.

Wizards beat Knicks with game-winning goaltending call in London Game

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The good people of England could use a break from the dumpster fire that is Brexit, so the NBA came to town to entertain with their very best… their biggest stars… the teams that were willing to go, the Knicks and the Wizards.

But the Londoners got to see one unusual ending.

The Knicks were up 100-99 thanks to a Noah Vonleh hook shot, but the Wizards had three seconds to try to get off a game winner. Scott Brooks designed an interesting play, with Bradley Beal starting in the backcourt and sprinting into the frontcourt, and when the defense moved to him as the likely shooter he passed to Thomas Bryant rolling down the lane, he put up the finger roll and…

That was a goaltend by Allonzo Trier to my eyes — the ball is just starting its downward trajectory, and it may have been over the cylinder (in an NBA arena there would have been an above-basket camera with a better angle on if it was over the rim, but that did not seem to be available in London).

The Wizards — who owner Ted Leonsis said will never tank, so forget about them trading away assets at the deadline — have won 3-of-4 and are 6-4 since John Wall was sidelined with his foot injury, with a +3 net rating in those games. Washington is now just two games out of the playoffs in the East and GM Ernie Grunfeld does not believe in tanking, so expect them to make a push.

Which is why wins like this matter.

PBT Extra: DeMarcus Cousins’ return will be big boost for Warriors. Maybe.

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The Golden State Warriors — the two-time defending NBA champs, the team on top of the Western Conference with the best offense in the NBA — are about to get a whole lot better.

Maybe.

Nobody really knows.

What we know is DeMarcus Cousins is scheduled to make his return to the court on Friday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Cousins missed the end of last season and all of this season recovering from a ruptured Achilles.

I get into all of it in this PBT Extra.

As NBC’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out, the history of big men bouncing back from this injury does not bode well for Cousins. On the other side, Cousins was so skilled, if the Warriors can get 75 percent of the old Cousins it will be an upgrade over Kevon Looney and give Golden State a guy who can exploit mismatches.

On paper, the Warriors should get better with Cousins in the lineup. But nobody really knows.

Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich says he doesn’t know whether he’ll retire after season

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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said in 2015 he made a commitment to newly signed LaMarcus Aldridge, presumably to coach through the five-year contract he signed in 2014.

That contract will expire after this season.

Then what?

Popovich, via Marc Stein of The New York Times:

“I don’t know the answer,” Popovich said when asked about his plans for next season in an interview Wednesday

Maybe Popovich is legitimately undecided about his future. Maybe he has a firm plan and was just being dismissive because he didn’t want to discuss it publicly. There’s obviously a massive difference between the two, but it’s difficult to parse from only his quote.

Popovich will coach Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and 2020 Olympics. That responsibility means a lot to the Air Force veteran. Some have even speculated he’ll retire from the NBA after this season to prepare for his USA Basketball duties.

In the meantime, Popovich remains one of the NBA’s top coaches. He has helped San Antonio turn around its season, building a strong offense around mid-range shooters DeMar DeRozan and Aldridge and getting everyone on enough of the same page defensively to be reasonable on that end. The Spurs aren’t a great team, but they’re good in ways that have Popovich’s fingerprints all over them.

Popovich could continue to succeed in the NBA for the foreseeable future. The question is – with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili gone and Popovich nearing age 70 – how much longer he wants to do it.