It didn’t take long into Al Harrington’s rookie year until he faced questions about whether he regretted turning pro directly from high school.
Harrington, whom the Pacers drafted in the first round of the 1998 NBA draft, was barely playing. His mother even called then-Indiana assistant coach Rick Carlisle to complain during that 1999 season.
Sixteen years later, all the worrying was for naught.
Harrington is one of just 83 players in NBA history who played more than 15 seasons in the league and one of just five – with Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal and Rashard Lewis – who did so after jumping straight from high school.
And now Harrington is done.
Harrington, via Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post:
“I’m officially retired,” Harrington said.
Coaching or front-office work is in his future, and Harrington’s getting a crash course in both, helping the coaches out with the remainder of the Nuggets’ season and then with the draft.
When Nuggets interim coach Melvin Hunt was elevated to his current post following the firing of Brian Shaw, Harrington was one of the first to congratulate him via text.
The next day Hunt had a text message for him: “You interested in coming and helping out?”
Harrington: “I’m actually going to be in town next week.”
Hunt: “Come by practice!”
Hunt needed the help. Harrington wanted the work.
Harrington developed in Indiana, becoming one of the league’s best sixth men. The Pacers traded him to the Hawks, who traded him back to the Pacers. Indiana traded him again to Golden State. He then got traded to the Knicks, becoming a 20-point-per-game scorer in New York. He signed with the Nuggets and became more helpful in better-fitting, smaller role. He toiled with the Magic for a season before giving the playoff-bound Wizards a spark last season. He began this season in China, and some NBA interest went nowhere.
In his 16 years in the NBA, Harrington has seen a lot and played plenty of roles. It takes basketball intelligence to last that long and adapt so frequently.
If Harrington wants to pursue coaching, he should have opportunities.