Al Harrington has been paid more than $86 million in his 16 NBA seasons, peaking at $10 million in 2009-10 with the New York Knicks. So from that perspective, it’s hard to second-guess the career that – across seven difference franchises and eight stops – set up Harrington and his family for life, probably for generations to come.
Then again, if Harrington is the one doing the second-guessing, it’s hard to, uh, third-guess that.
Harrington, a preps-to-pros guy who went to Indiana as the 25th pick in the 1998 Draft, spoke recently – and candidly – the other day with Mark Montieth of Pacers.com:
“It’s amazing how fast it went by,” Harrington said before Friday’s game. “I swear, I was just in (the Pacers’) locker room. Everything between then and now is just a blur. The seven years here, I can remember all of that. But from there to here, what the hell happened?”
What happened is that Harrington unwittingly traded seeming stability in Indianapolis for a journeyman’s career that sent him criss-crossing the country in search of what he voluntarily gave up. … Seemingly destined for a reserve role for seasons to come, he asked team president Donnie Walsh for a trade.
To this day, it’s his greatest regret.
Hoping for a trade to Cleveland, where he could have played with LeBron James, Harrington instead wound up in Atlanta. It was the first of his four trades, to go with his free-agent signing with Denver in 2010 and, in August, getting waived for the first time. After Orlando cut him loose, Harrington was picked up 10 days later by Washington. But he has played sparingly due to soreness in the right knee that limited him to 10 games for the Magic in 2012-13.
Between the injury limitations and the Wizards’ stop in Indianapolis for the Thanksgiving holiday – he invited the whole team to his parents’ home there for dinner – Harrington was sounding a little nostalgic.
It’s worth noting that, having played in 25 playoff games by age 24 with the Pacers, Harrington – due to the quality of his teams and injury issues – has appeared in only 23 the past nine seasons. Indiana has played 54 postseason games since Harrington first asked out, and that includes a 2007-2010 drought he might have helped them avoid.
That only fueled the what-if’s in his interview with Montieth:
“It’s one of those things, you don’t know how good you got it until you’re gone,” he said. “This is a consistent organization that always did everything the right way. You kind of take those things for granted. But I didn’t know.
“I tell people all the time, I could have been a lifetime Pacer. I think I had enough people here who liked me, I could have been like Jeff Foster. But I wanted to test my wings and see if they could fly.”
Harrington shouldn’t be too hard on himself. The whole seeking-fame-and-fortune thing is part of what the NBA is about, and if a promising backup isn’t pushing for a starter’s role and salary – think James Harden – then he might not max out his potential as player either. It’s not like he left any championship rings on the table in Indianapolis, either.
As for the money part, Harrington has always found a solid marketplace for his skills and size (6-foot-9) that allowed him to play anywhere on the front line. That has translated to about $36 million more than Foster earned in his 13-year career, all with Indiana.