The Al Harrington signing has been talked about extensively here, dating back to just after he was released by the Orlando Magic back on August 2. He's already taken on a leadership role in his brief time in D.C. by organizing team mini-camps, and he's gone on record expressing his proclivity to work as "an officer of the locker room."
But beyond the leadership qualities, I wanted to get a better feel for Al Harrington the player, so I went to Andrew Feinstein, a writer at SB Nation's Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs, for insight.
Bullets Forever: I'll start it off with this: John Wall has been vying for a stretch-4, is Al Harrington that guy?
Denver Stiffs: He was a stretch-4 and probably can be periodically, but at almost 34 years old, Harrington is a very old 34. Remember he came into the NBA as an 18 year old and has logged 15 seasons to date.
BF: During the draft, I wrote about the Wizards tooling their bench with two-way players and staying away from the Anthony Bennetts of the world. However, reading your 2010-11 season review on Harrington, he suffered a great deal from a lack of effort. Is that something we can expect more of from a guy who essentially missed a year of basketball?
DS: Harrington was awful in 2010-11 but made up for it big time in 2011-12. In 2010-11, he had continuing plantar fasciitis issues in his feet. The only recovery from that is rest, and it's common for athletes with that condition to get heavy, which "Big Al" did. But to his credit, after being greatly dissatisfied with his own performance in 2010-11, he got himself into great shape for the 2011-12 season and was a big-time contributor for the Nuggets all season long. I'm not sure what happened to him in Orlando injury-wise and why he played so few games last season.
BF: Spreading the floor out for Wall and getting that extra jolt out of that second unit is a must on offense, so he'll undoubtedly get a solid 15-20 mins a game if everything goes to plan. How ideal is that for a team desperately itching to get into the playoffs?
DS: Again, if you get the Big Al from 2011-12, he could be a huge boost for the Wizards. But you are rightly concerned about a player who is prone to putting on excess weight coming in after sitting out a year. Big Al could be that jolt you desperately need or he could be the old version of Andray Blatche!
BF: How effective would he be as a small-ball 5 in fourth quarter lineups? I'm sure the first thing coming to your mind is "Who will rebound and protect the paint?" but getting that extra shooter to spread the floor while playing from behind is enticing. Is the trade-off worth it?
DS: Big Al played some center here in Denver and was routinely in games in the fourth quarter as head coach George Karl trusted him in those situations. He seemed to have knack for making clutch shots in the paint even though he can longer jump off the ground (you'd be lucky to sneak a credit card under Big Al's "vertical" these days). And I hate to say this, but by having two bigs in Washington who don't actually like to play basketball (that being Emeka Okafor and Nene Hilario), you're going to need Big Al in some five situations in the fourth quarter. (Editor's note: Not sure what he's talking about with Okafor and Nene, but he knows Nene well at least. -Mike)
BF: I know you touched on his 2010-11 season, but digging into the numbers a little more, that Nuggets team was first in offensive rating with Harrington playing 22 minutes per game and then third the following year with him playing 27 minutes per game. Obviously those rosters were in flux due to Melodrama and the Nene trade, but Harrington had to be doing something right, no?
DS: As I said above, Big Al was a big time contributor in 2011-12. The Nuggets don't survive the Melodrama as well as they did and they don't take the Lakers to seven games in the playoffs without Big Al that year. Nuggets Nation will forever be grateful for Big Al's time in Denver that season!
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- Bullets Forever's Summer Skill checklist: Emeka Okafor