Posts Tagged ‘Al Harrington’

Wizards’ culture shift in full swing


VIDEO: Glen Rice Jr. ties the game with a 3-pointer from the corner for the Washington Wizards

LAS VEGAS – That breakthrough season and playoff run was just the beginning for the Washington Wizards.

That flash we saw from the John Wall and Bradley Beal-led Wizards in the Eastern Conference semifinals is still going strong into both free agency and here in the Samsung NBA Summer League, where youngsters like Glen Rice Jr. and Otto Porter Jr. are busy doing work with their veteran peers keeping a watchful eye.

Wall and Beal were in attendance at the Thomas and Mack Center Saturday night when Rice went off for 36 points in a triple-overtime win over the San Antonio Spurs. Veteran free agent Al Harrington is working the sidelines as a volunteer assistant under Wizards assistant Sam Cassell, keeping his finger on the pulse of a team whose culture shift is clearly in full swing after years of building to this point.

“We’re trying to get our hands on that trophy,” a smiling Harrington said after the win over the Spurs. “It’s just a good vibe all around since the season ended. All of our guys, the young guys and the older guys, are grinding and trying to get to that next level. Everybody recognizes the opportunity that is staring us in the face and we have to be ready. Everybody has to be ready.”

In a summer that began with the Wizards making the first big splash by keeping free-agent center Marcin Gortat on $60 million deal, the hits have kept on coming for this crew. Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker departed in free agency, but  Wizards boss Ernie Grunfeld went to work and rebounded by acquiring former Finals MVP Paul Pierce on a two-yer deal and veteran big men Kris Humprhies and DeJuan Blair in sign-and-trade deals to bolster the bench.

And for anyone dismissing the moves — the Pierce deal in particular, due to the mileage Pierce has piled up over the course of his stellar career — his coach in Brooklyn last season, believes the Wizards have taken a major step forward this summer with the acquisition of these veterans.

“Washington got better,” Kidd told reporters here last week. “You’ve got a veteran guy who understands what it means to be a professional, comes to work every day and understand what it takes to win a championship. … He won’t have any problems [fitting with the Wizards]. He’ll be fine.”

The Wizards will be, too, based on the busy work they have done this summer. Teams either get better or worse with their offseason work. Staying the course, for anyone other than the champion Spurs, simply doesn’t work.

“It’s just a matter of the process of getting better,” Kidd said. “You see that with Gortat coming back. The backcourt is very talented. So they lose a player, a piece, but they’re not afraid to go out and get a player that can help them. They’re going to be one of the top teams in the East.”

That’s the plan. Harrington said that was the vision of all involved when the season ended. They felt like they let the Pacers off the hook in the playoffs. “Trust me, it won’t happen again,” he said. “Our guys are better now because of what we learned about ourselves in that series.”

LeBron James heading home to Cleveland leaves a void at the top of the Southeast Division. And much like the work the Wizards’ summer league squad is putting in to capture top honors, when the regular season begins the varsity crew will battle for the No. 1 spot with the Heat, Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets.

“It’s there for the taking,” Harrington said. “You see the way we are working now in the middle of the summer. We changed the culture. And now we’re feeding the beast, making sure everybody knows what goes on when the lights come on in the regular season. We need [Rice Jr.] and Otto ready to go from the start. Our depth is going to be our strength. It’s go time from the first day of training camp.”

Much to prove in G5 for Pacers, Wizards

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Let’s Go! Wizards-Pacers Game 5

INDIANAPOLIS – Both the Indiana Pacers and the Washington Wizards have opportunities to prove something Tuesday night in Game 5 that doesn’t have much to do with the conclusion or extension of their Eastern Conference semifinal matchup.

Sure, the Pacers hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. But this one is important unto itself for what it might say about the Pacers or, more accurately, permit them to say about themselves.

All is well? You’re right where you were supposed to be? Maybe, maybe not. Indiana has had false starts before over the past month or so. Victories over Chicago and Miami, nailing down the East’s No. 1 seed, ousting Atlanta from Round 1 – those all supposedly were all-clear signs, only to have Indiana veer soon enough off the rails again.

Now they have the Wizards where they want them – on the brink of elimination, on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court – and a chance to smack down what had been a hot team and a trendy East semis pick just a week ago. The Pacers got an other-worldly game from Roy Hibbert in Game 2, pounced on a stinko performance by Washington in Game 3 (hey, almost every playoff team has one at some point) and rode on Paul George‘s lean shoulders to their comeback from 19 down in Game 4.

This would be the one, then, in which the Pacers could do themselves and their fan base proud. Start their engines, stomp on the pedal, click off 48 minutes worth of counter-clockwise laps and send the Wizards from the Brickyard to the graveyard. By ending this in a gentleman’s sweep, by asserting some real No. 1-ness over the conference’s No. 5 seed, by skipping the drama and drain of another trip to Washington and grabbing some flex days for themselves before opening the East finals at home, they could convince a few more skeptics and add legitimacy to their claim of being, y’know, back.

They also could back up what their coach, Frank Vogel, said last Sunday about playoff experience, something the Wizards are just now sampling. Remember, this season, this postseason push, is the culmination of something Indiana has been building for four years. One round, two rounds, three round, with its sight set on The Finals now.

That’s why the questions about playoff experience – habitually dismissed by Randy Wittman when asked about his youngish Wizards – get embraced by Vogel.

“I actually think it’s a big deal. It’s a big factor,” Vogel said. “I think experience in the playoffs gives you confidence. Not just overall experience, but experience as a group.  This group has been there. They’ve got an incredible young nucleus and they have veterans that have been there, but not this unit. I think it’s a factor and hopefully it continues to work well for us.”

Wittman wants to cast that theory aside, at least until his players get their exit interviews. After Game 4, the Wizards’ newness to all this was offered up as an explanation for getting outscored 57-37 in the second half. And for a failure to execute with 6.1 seconds left and a chance to tie. And for every mishap before or in between.

“Why do I want to talk about inexperience? All that is is an excuse,” Wittman said. “I don’t want our guys looking for an excuse. They’re gonna grow, they’re gonna continue to do the things that they’re gonna do. This is a process. All right? But right now, I’m not blaming any of this on any youth or inexperience or who’s been in the playoffs and who hasn’t. We’re in the fight. We’ve got to stay in the fight. No excuses. And we’ve got to do down and win a game.”

The Wizards will need John Wall to do better than 11.5 points a game on 31.4 percent shooting, and to have more of a plan when he drives the ball besides simply shying away from the 7-foot-2 Hibbert. The big fellow has been in Bradley Beal‘s head, too, but with George blanketing Beal on the perimeter, the middle might be Beal’s best bet.

George, after his 39-point burst in Game 4, is going to require more professional defense than Trevor Ariza gave. The Nene who caused such fits for Chicago and center Joakim Noah in the first round is scoring just 11.8 points and pulling down just 4.3 rebounds a game in this series. He’s shooting 35.7 percent.

And then there is the third quarter, an Indiana strength all season and current a Washington crisis. The Pacers have controlled those 12 minutes after halftime in all four games, with a combined scoring edge of 42. The rest of the quarters the Wizards have been plus-19. It hasn’t mattered.

“We haven’t been able to figure that out,”  Washington’s Al Harrington said Sunday. “That’s been us all year. [In the] third quarter, we just always seem to come out slow and sluggish. And then we find a way to ramp it up toward the end of the quarter and throughout the fourth quarter. In the playoffs at this time of year, you can’t afford that, especially against a good team.”

Indiana can reassert itself as that and sway some remaining doubters. Washington can learn on the fly and claim the knock-knock-knocking stuff is overrated.

That’s what is on the line in Game 5.

Wizards flex rare road-court advantage

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com


VIDEO: Go inside Randy Wittman’s huddle in the Wizards’ Game 1 win in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS – In their development as a young, formidable NBA team, the Washington Wizards’ preternatural ability to win road games is like putting their socks and shoes on before pulling on their pants.

It seems so out of order.

A tradition built from vapor, too. The Wizards were 22-19 on the road this season, tied for the league’s eighth-best mark (their 22-19 home record ranked only 18th). That was a remarkable leap considering Washington was 7-34 a year ago, 9-24 in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season and 3-38 the season before that.

This trend has only intensified lately: The Wizards are the first team to win their first four road playoff games, all against higher-seeded opponents, since the New Jersey Nets managed it in 1984. They knocked off the Bulls in five games by winning all three at Chicago’s United Center. Then they grabbed the series opener Monday against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Traditionally in this league, teams on the rise learn to take care of business at home, then aim for .500 as they grow and build.

“Winning on the road’s a belief,” coach Randy Wittman said before his team’s practice Tuesday at the University of Indianapolis. “You’ve got to believe you’re going to go into any gym … and if we do things the way we’re capable of doing, we’re gonna win. A lot of times before [this season], you could play your best game and not have a chance to win.”

Wittman may be right in touting the intangibles involved in winning on the other guys’ courts because statistically, there is scant evidence to explain the success. Washington scored a little more on the road (101.0 vs. 100.3) but defended worse (100.5 vs. 98.3) than at home. Its differentials in rebounding, assists and shooting percentages showed little impact.

Individually, point guard John Wall averaged 3.4 ppg less on the road, with a 41.2 FG% that drooped from his 45.3 at home. Backcourt mate Bradley Beal showed some notable gains away from Verizon Center: 3.4 ppg and a bump from 39.8 percent shooting to 43.6 percent on the road. His offensive rating jumped from 97.0 to 106 in the NBA’s other buildings.

Forward Trevor Ariza also bumped up, by 2.9 ppg and with an offensive rating of 114 compared to 108 at home. He shot significantly better, inside and outside the arc.

Then again, winning as often on the road as at home doesn’t require big shifts in production; it mostly asks that a team’s performance doesn’t drop off in hostile environments. That’s where Washington has been notable – so much so, it was the only team in the league in 2013-14 that didn’t have a worse record on the road than at home.

“Your guess is as good as mine. But I think we like playing against other crowds,” Beal said. “We were the total opposite last year. I think we come out a lot more focused. We’ve bought in. On the road we’re not worried about too many distractions – it’s just us.”

Center Marcin Gortat has talked of this occasionally this season – a tendency not only to be distracted by the demands of daily life when playing in D.C., but to relax and expect more help from a crowd at Verizon Center that tends to be more wait-and-see. Some think that Wall and others focus too much at home on entertaining and rousing Wizards fans, compared to just sticking it to the throngs in the other arenas.

“When I played in Portland, we weren’t a good home team but we were dominant on the road,” guard Martell Webster said. “We play for each other on the road – same as at home – but I guess you feel a little more complacent and comfortable at home. On the road, there’s more of a sense of urgency and guys understanding that the odds are stacked against us. For us, that was comfortable. We enjoyed doing that.”

Said veteran forward Al Harrington, who rarely has seen this trend in his stops with seven different franchises: “I don’t know if it’s because we’re away from our families and stuff where guys can really lock in. But this is a great group where nobody goes out the night before games. Guys take it very serious, that next game.

“There’s no curfew. We could do whatever we want to do, but these young guys choose to stay in. I think that’s the biggest difference – we come out on the road with so much energy, so much focus.”


VIDEO: Wizards grab early advantage with Game 1 win in Indianapolis

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 24


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kobe on Collins and courage “domino” effect | Oden’s makes waves, first start for Heat | Clippers finally get what they need … win over the Thunder | Wizards turn to veterns for help down the stretch | A “shoe war” over Lillard?

No. 1: Kobe insists Collins courage will have domnio effect – Making history surely wasn’t on the mind of Jason Collins Sunday night, as he became the first openly gay athlete to suit up and play in one of the four major American sports. All Collins, of the Brooklyn Nets, was trying to do was earn his 10-day contract keep and help his team win. Whether he likes it or now, though, Collins is taking groundbreaking steps that will generate what Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant called a courage domino effect across the landscape. Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports explains:

“His impact [Sunday night] is greater than what people think,” Bryant told Yahoo Sports before the game. “You look at it from the context of having the first openly gay player. But they missed the domino effect that it has way beyond sports.”

Collins, now in his 13th season, was a free agent at the time of his announcement and the Nets were the first team to sign him. Bryant said his initial reaction to Collins signing with Brooklyn was, “It’s great. Let’s hoop.”

Along with having an impact on the gay and sports communities, Bryant says the news teaches the youth “it’s OK to be yourself” and will motivate people from all walks of life.

“It’s fantastic. It sets an incredible precedent,” said Bryant, who is currently out of the Lakers’ lineup indefinitely with a knee injury. “I think the most important part about it, what I’ve learned on the issue is that one person coming out is showing this type of courage that gives others that same type of courage.

“It’s dealing with a lot of issues for kids who are afraid to be themselves. Afraid to be themselves because of the peer pressure that comes with it. A lot of these kids have depression issues or they’re being teased from other kids for being different. You wind up seeing a lot of suicides, kids injuring themselves and getting hooked on things that they should not be hooked on.”

On the impact of Collins’ first game, Bryant said: “There is a kid out there who … is going to say, ‘Jason gave me strength in dark moments to be brave. He gave me courage to step up and accept myself for who I am despite what others might be saying or the public pressures. He gave me strength and bravery to be myself.’”

Collins, who was scoreless in 10-plus minutes of action, said in response to Bryant’s praise, “That’s along the same lines of what I would say to every other professional athlete. … Realize that there is support there waiting for you. That’s the only thing I can say about encouraging people to be their true self.”


VIDEO: Jason Collins waxes on his season debut with the Brooklyn Nets

***

No. 2: Greg Oden’s first start for Heat (sans LeBron) ends with a win – Greg Oden made some news of his own Sunday, earning his first start for the Miami Heat in their win over the Chicago Bulls. The former No. 1 overall pick reached yet another milestone in his long journey back from what once appeared to be career-ending knee injuries. His start came without LeBron James in uniform, the Heat superstar sat out with that broken nose suffered against the Oklahoma City Thunder last week. But this day was about Oden and his milestone, writes Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald:

Oden’s big-picture perspective is unwavering.

He’s just happy to be here.

“For me, each game getting better and walking off healthy — they’re all milestones to me,” said Oden, who is attempting to revive his career after a series of knee injuries. “It has been a long road, so every one is a good one for me.”

Sunday might have been the best of all. He started his first game since December 2009 and played nearly 13 minutes in Miami’s victory. During his brief time in the game, Oden matched up against Bulls center Joakim Noah and had five points and five rebounds.

“He’s an active player for someone that big,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He makes multiple efforts, he gives you extra possessions and he’s very intelligent, so he has a pretty good grasp of what we want and how we want to play already.”

With LeBron James out with a broken nose, Spoelstra went to Oden for his size inside against the Bulls and also to keep the Heat’s second unit somewhat intact. Chicago is one of the league’s most aggressive rebounding teams and it showed early. The Bulls held a 32-19 rebounding advantage after the first half.

“We knew the minutes would be short for Greg still — 10 to 12 minutes — so we figure that [it would] be best to get him in that starting lineup,” Spoelstra said. “We get to keep our rotations somewhat similar.”

Oden said he could have played more than 13 minutes, which is a positive sign for the Heat. He is expected to be an important piece in the playoffs, especially against teams such as the Bulls and Indiana Pacers, which feature big frontcourts.

On a contending team for the first time in his career, Oden is following the lead of his more experienced teammates and Oden’s health is returning just in time for the Heat’s playoff push.

“They’ve all been through this before,” Oden said. “This is one of my first times going through this. This is that push you’ve got to get for first place. That’s what we are aiming for right now the next push is going to be when the playoffs come.”

***

No. 3: Clippers finally get that much-needed win over The Thunder – The Los Angeles Clippers fancy themselves a championship team, as do the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Clippers, though, needed a win over the Thunder, on the road, to legitimize their claim. And they finally got that Sunday, solving their Thunder issue on the big stage and sending a message that they are indeed going to be a part of the power mix in the Western Conference playoff chase. As Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times reports, it was long overdue:

The Clippers needed this.

A 125-117 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena on Sunday carried restorative powers for a Clippers team had been unsuccessful against the NBA’s elite on the road.

The Thunder owned the league’s best record — until the Clippers’ victory took their opponent down a peg to 43-14, percentage points behind Indiana (42-13).

The Clippers won with all five starters scoring in double figures. Jamal Crawford led the way with 36 points, but Matt Barnes (24 points, seven rebounds), Blake Griffin (20 points, seven rebounds, six assists), DeAndre Jordan (18 points, 12 rebounds) and Chris Paul (18 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds) all played significant roles.

“It’s definitely a good win for us,” said Paul, who played despite a sprained right thumb. “We were on the plane [Saturday] flying here and we were just talking about how we hadn’t beat any good teams on the road, and this would be the perfect time to start.”

The Clippers lost here earlier this season. They also have lost at San Antonio, Miami, Indiana and Portland, teams that rank among the best in the league.

The Clippers have won at Houston, but that was only one win against five road losses against the top teams.

Now the Clippers have a victory against a Thunder team that has lost only five games at home all season. They also have their first win since the All-Star game, after stumbling out of the break with losses to San Antonio and at Memphis.

“It was a very important win, especially having dropped our last two,” Griffin said. “This win was big for us. We haven’t really made a statement on the road. We’ve won some games, but we haven’t won big games. So it was terrific for us.”


VIDEO: Doc Rivers talks about the Clippers’ big win in OKC

***

No. 4: Wizards turns to veterans for help down the stretch – Trades and injuries have a way of opening doors for NBA veterans this time of year and the Washington Wizards are not different. After their work on deadline day, the Wizards had a new point guard in Andre Miller and an opening for a few minutes for guys like Al Harrington and Kevin Seraphin. An injury to Nene created even more space for those two veterans and they answered the call for Randy Wittman‘s team. Michael Lee of The Washington Post with the details:

Kevin Seraphin couldn’t get overly concerned when he saw Nene crumple to the ground in pain, then hop off the court and through the tunnel toward the Wizards’ locker room on his good, right leg. Coach Randy Wittman called on Seraphin immediately after Nene went down with what the team is calling a sprained left knee in the third quarter of the Wizards’ 96-83 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday. Seraphin had to be ready.

“Yeah. I saw him leave, but when we’re in the game, we have to be focused on the game,” Seraphin said.

The Wizards (28-28) were only up by three points at the time of Nene’s departure and they have typically become flimsy when their most gifted big man is unable to finish a game. Washington squandered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead when Nene was ejected with roughly three minutes left in Oklahoma City, lost in overtime to Milwaukee when Nene strained his right Achilles’ tendon, and suffered a controversial defeat in Houston after Nene fouled out late in the fourth quarter.

After Luol Deng completed a three-point play to bring the Cavaliers within 73-72 with 93 seconds left in the third quarter, the Wizards were once again in danger of letting a winnable game get away from them. Then, Wittman put veteran Al Harrington on the floor and he made two huge shots – a driving layup and a three-pointer – to send the Wizards into the fourth period with a six-point lead.

“I was just looking for an opportunity. I was ready, obviously, the situation with Nene allowed me to do a little more,” Harrington said. “It’s tough. He’s been playing some great basketball, so that was tough to see. Hopefully we can get him back sooner than later, but guys got to step up. I think we got enough guys that can do that.”

Harrington didn’t score for the rest of the game. But Seraphin came through with two huge, 10-foot jump hooks to push the Wizards ahead 82-74 early in the fourth quarter.

“He’s capable of doing that,” Wittman said of Seraphin. “The more he simplifies his game the better. Sometimes he likes to trick people, and we got to get him just to be simple. That’s his move and he does it very well. Big couple of shots he hit.”

Harrington finished with two rebounds and an assist and tried to extend the lead but missed a three-pointer and Wittman replaced him with Marcin Gortat. “I thought Al gave us a big lift in the second half. He was panting like a dog out there but we got to continue to get him rounded into shape,” Wittman said of Harrington, who played just 31 seconds the night before against New Orleans as Nene matched his career high with 30 points.

***

No. 5: It’s gotta be the shoes for Portland’s Lillard – Portland All-Star point guard Damian Lillard made waves with his busy schedule during All-Star Weekend. There could be more waves on the horizon where he is concerned, courtesy of a budding tug of war over his shoe company. It’s been a while since a battle between shoe giants made noise in the NBA, but Lillard’s story is about to get interesting as Adidas and Nike get ready to tussle over the young star. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com provides the minutiae:

Lillard, 23, has a profitable rookie shoe endorsement deal with adidas, though that could change abruptly due to clever language in his contract.

Being that he took home the 2012-13 NBA Rookie of the Year award, became an NBA All-Star and reached other unique incentive clauses in his first two seasons, Lillard will be able to opt out of his shoe contract at the end of the basketball season and either renegotiate a more lucrative deal with adidas, or open negotiations with Nike, Brand Jordan, Reebok or Under Armor, league sources informed CSNNW.com.

Another source that’s vastly briefed on Lillard’s situation added, “There’s no doubt about it, he’s opting out.”

Rival shoe companies have been well-versed on the matter for months and are expected to make competitive offers, but CSNNW.com is told that Nike stands the best chance of luring Lillard away from adidas.

Adidas is in no position to lose their accomplished young standout point guard.

Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is currently viewed as the basketball face of adidas. However, his string of knee injuries in addition to the fact that he has only participated in 49 games in three seasons has adidas apprehensive he can remain the company’s headliner.

In 2012, Rose signed a multiyear deal in the upwards of $200 million.

Lillard hasn’t missed a game in his one and half years as a professional and the way in which he carries himself on and off the court is without glitch if a company seeks to market him as the face of a national corporation.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Sunday proved to be a great day/night for quite a few players from around the league. that lists include Kevin DurantJamal CrawfordGoran DragicRudy GayDanny Granger is still MIA for the Sixers on the practice court. The buyout has to be negotiated if he plans on moving on without suiting up in Philly … The Commissioner speaks on openly gay pro athletes … Harvey Araton of The New York Times weighs in on Collins, too, and the impact he can have going forward

ICYMI(s) of The Night: Thomas Robinson showed up and showed out for the Trail Blazers in so many ways …


VIDEO: The Thomas Robinson affair folks

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener, Although The Cash Can Be


VIDEO: Al Harrington gets the steal and finishes with razzle-dazzle

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.

The 2013-14 Hang Time Redeem Team





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – No one needs reminding of the importance of the 2013-14 NBA season for superstars like Derrick Rose, Kobe Bryant, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and others who are battling their way back from injuries that sidelined them for all or part of last season.

We watch their every move anyway, so when those stars do return, it’ll be an all-eyes-on-them proposition for certain. But for others, guys who have languished in the shadows the past couple of seasons for one reason or another, this season presents an opportunity for redemption as well.

Opportunity abounds for another group of players who comprise Hang Time’s Redeem Team this season, guys who need to leave a mark on 2013-14 in the worst way. Now is the time for these veterans to reclaim their positions in the league, to either resurrect or flat-out save their careers:

Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans

Now that he’s been cleared to crank up his conditioning and do whatever it takes to get into game shape, Gordon is potentially on the road back to the budding young star we saw during his third season in the league with the Los Angeles Clippers (when Gordon averaged 22.2 points and 4.4 assists in 56 games). The injury issues will follow him until he puts together a couple of seasons where he plays as close to 82 regular-season games as possible. But the game moves on without once promising young stars all the time. And Gordon is in the danger zone at this stage of his career. He’s on a team loaded with young talent (All-Star Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers) at the same position. He’s in a now-or-probably-not-here predicament, given his salary and the circumstances.

Greg Oden, Miami Heat

The fact that Oden has come this far in his comeback bid is a victory of sorts for the former No. 1 pick, whose arrival in the league had fans in Portland dreaming of contending for championships one day with a player who promised to be one of the best big men of his generation. Oden has the luxury of not having to rush back for a Heat team that has managed just fine without him the past three seasons. His is more of a personal pilgrimage from being completely out of the league to having a chance to contribute on a team aiming for a three-peat. “My main goal is to be back on the court playing,” Oden told the Sun Sentinel. “But every little thing is just a little step closer to what I want to do. In my head, I’m smiling. I’m back in the routine I’m back out here working out in front of fans.” Whatever the Heat squeeze out of Oden, who is one one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum, is a bonus for all involved.

Andrew Bynum, Cleveland Cavaliers

No player on this list has more to gain from a big 2013-14 season than Bynum, who just a couple of seasons ago served the other big man in the argument about who would serve as the challenger to Dwight Howard as the best in the business. Bynum’s stock fell so hard and so fast last season in Philadelphia, when he watched a disastrous season unfold from the sidelines after the Sixers scrapped a playoff team to acquire him and build around him for the future. The Cavs have other issues, obviously, mainly finding out what they have in the No. 1 pick in the June Draft, Anthony Bennett, who has shown some positive flashes in the preseason. Perhaps the greatest motivation for Bynum this seasons will come from another No. 1 pick, Kyrie Irving, who has designs on rising up the ranks this season himself.

Al Harrington, Washington Wizards

Maybe you’ve forgotten just how valuable a piece Harrington has been to playoff outfits throughout his career. He did it in Indiana, Golden State and Denver and the Wizards are hoping he can use some of the lessons he’s learned the past 15 seasons to help John  Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of an up and coming crew move into the playoff mix. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has mentioned Harrington repeatedly as not only a player who will counted on to provide veteran leadership but also a symbolic figure, a vet with an eye toward reclaiming his career and doing it in a place (Washington) that others view as a team and franchise on the rise. With a fleet of young bigs working hard to get better and injury issues (namely Emeka Okafor), having a stretch-4 with Harrington’s versatility and history will be crucial for the Wizards early on this season.

Andrea Bargnani, New York Knicks

The marriage between this former No. 1 pick (the third player of such ilk on this list) and the city of Toronto broke down early on and was beyond repair by the time the Knicks traded for him over the summer. This second honeymoon in New York won’t obviously won’t last seven years. The Knicks need Bargnani to find his niche now and be a factor on a team with playoff expectations he never experienced with the Raptors. Bargnani’s teammates recognize his skill set and Knicks coach Mike Woodson knows that he has to find ways to exploit Bargnani’s strengths and hide his weaknesses. With his shot and size, and the constantly increasing value for floor spacers in today’s game, Bargnani will surely get several more shots if things don’t work out with the Knicks. But if he’s ready to stop being a punch line, he needs to pounce on the opportunity staring him in the face right now.


Morning Shootaround — March 22

Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.

The one recap to watch: Props to the Kings, who with their win last night over the Timberwolves have won three of their last four and are .500 in March. As nice as it is to see them playing better basketball, we’ve got to obviously go with the Sixers-Nuggets game this morning. Seemly only fitting that with the NCAA Tournament underway that a one-time NCAA hero, Corey Brewer, would be the man stepping up to keep Denver’s win streak in tact. His clutch 3-point shooting down the stretch and his uber-clutch three free throws that won the game for the Nuggets gave a semi-routine NBA game the feel of March Madness. And Brewer’s celebration after the Nuggets salted away the game was more than NCAA-worthy, too.

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News of the morning

Iguodala ups Nuggets’ defensive trust | Millsap getting over recent benching | Pistons’ Frank: ‘Eyes are always on you’ | Harrington likely done for season

Iggy increases trust factor for NuggetsIn rolling up 14 straight wins to set a franchise record for consecutive NBA wins, the Nuggets have turned up their defense whether they are at home or on the road. That defensive acumen wasn’t apparent during the majority of last night’s game against Philly, but as the Nuggets pulled off a miraculous comeback, the defense (and some fortunate breaks) came through to keep Denver rolling. Benjaman Hochman of The Denver Post has more on that defensive focus and the play of Andre Iguodala, who has spearheaded the charge:

Why do the Nuggets win games they should lose? I can give you a lot of fancy stats about fast-break scoring and improvements in all facets of defense, but the incalculable intangible is that they’re among the league leaders in trust.

“We talk a lot about the word trust,” Nuggets coach George Karl said, “trusting each other, trusting the concepts, trusting the intensity. The word trust has been in our game plans a lot. And I have to trust them, they’ve earned that trust.”

Trust is most important on the defensive end. And for however fun it was watching Allen Iverson and Melo pour in 25-plus a night, there was little trust on defense. Heck, there was little defense. Iverson was so insignificant on defense that occasionally he literally wasn’t even looking at the play (as such, many around the Pepsi Center believe that Denver somehow winning 50 games in 2007-08 was one of the greatest accomplishments in franchise history).

Now, Denver has the opposite of A.I. in, well, A.I.

“I think there’s a confidence that comes with having an Andre (Iguodala) on your defensive end of the court,” Karl said. “And when you can take a major opposing player and kind of control him with one individual, then you don’t need a lot of concepts, you don’t need a lot of tricks and cover-ups and rotations. And for a young team, that’s good, because if we had to gimmick up the game, I don’t know if our young players have done that enough to feel comfortable with it.

“There are a lot of concepts that your partner is supporting you in. you must go and trust that he’s going to be ready for you. And you also have to trust that the weakside defense will support you, so your defensive assignments probably involve more trust.”

Millsap not thrilled over benching in HoustonThe Jazz find themselves 1 1/2 games behind the Lakers for the No. 8 spot in the West, but of late, Utah has struggled. It is 3-7 in March and has lost six of its last eight games, with a mix of blowouts and heartbreakers sprinkled among the defeats. The latest knock came on Wednesday in Houston, where the Rockets won 100-93, but had a double-digit lead most of the night and had their way with the Jazz’s defense. Once the game started spiraling out of control, coach Ty Corbin pulled starters Paul Millsap and Mo Williams for a younger crew that staged a semi-comeback in the fourth quarter. Millsap, as one would expect, wasn’t too thrilled and talked to The Salt Lake Tribune’s Bill Oram about riding the bench against the Rockets:

When Paul Millsap was benched for the entire fourth quarter of a game in late December, he was asked whether the coaching decision upset him.

“What you think?” he responded. “I’ll let you answer that.”

But after being benched for the final 14:47 of the Utah Jazz’s 100-93 loss at Houston on Wednesday, Millsap found himself faced with the same question at Thursday morning’s practice.

“It’s tough for me not to play at all, period,” he said. “I want to be on the court at all times.”

Starting point guard Mo Williams, who also did not play in the fourth quarter, said he was “absolutely” fine with the move.

Millsap, in the final season of a four-year contract with the Jazz, was left on the bench as Derrick Favors closed the game. Favors’ numbers — five points, three rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes — paled when compared with Millsap’s 16 points, four rebounds and two steals in 25 minutes. However, the burgeoning backup was part of a resurgent unit that cut a 26-point deficit to five against the Rockets. Favors was part of a group that included Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks and Marvin Williams that coach Tyrone Corbin praised for a defense that, while it made mistakes, “it wasn’t as many times as the group before.”

Millsap described himself as “positive by nature” but was clearly troubled by the reduced role. He is third on the team in minutes per game at 30.2, and has spent more time on the floor this season than every player with the exception of Jefferson.

But the second-round pick turned franchise cornerstone seemed Thursday resigned to a change.

“Obviously,” he said, “it’s going to be that way. So I got to live with it.”

Detroit’s Frank mindful of futureThe Pistons sport the fourth-worst record in the league and have just 13 games left in what has been a disappointing season. Four players on the roster — Jose Calderon, Jason Maxiell, Will Bynum and Corey Maggette — can become free agents this summer. Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said he’s well aware of the tenuous relationship some of the players have with the team heading into next season and, as he tells MLive.com’s David Mayo, nothing is guaranteed for next season:

“Eyes are always on you,” head coach Lawrence Frank said.  “No one’s going to write it off.  No, no, this is how you evaluate.  We’re evaluating our guys every single day.  That’s how the league is.

Frank hasn’t been back on the job long.  He returned this week from a six-game absence to attend to his wife Susan during and after a major surgery in New Jersey.

But his warnings of careers on the line extended beyond the eight players whose contracts will expire or can be terminated or bought out after this season.

“I look at it as a coach, the job, how we’re playing, that’s reflective of my performance.  As a player, same thing,” Frank said.
The Pistons have plenty to spend in the summer trade and free-agency periods and cleaning up the roster usually is a an accompanying chore.

“To me, there are no guarantees,” Frank said.  “When you’ve won the amount of games that we’ve won, I don’t care who you are, no one should feel safe.  Me as coach, player. … There shouldn’t be a player on the roster with a record like we are who thinks, ‘Oh, I’m here next year.’  Well, we only one ‘X’ amount of games.”

Magic unlikely to have Harrington this seasonVeteran big man Al Harrington will always be a part of Orlando Magic lore as one of the players the team acquired in the Dwight Howard mega-deal of last summer. Since joining the Magic, Harrington has appeared in 10 games with Orlando but hasn’t played since March 15. Although Harrington is healthy, Magic coach Jacque Vaughn plans to run with his younger players down the stretch and Harrington, who still has three years left on his contract, will sit more. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more:

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn intends to play his young big men — 20-year-old Tobias Harris, 22-year-old Kyle O’Quinn, 22-year-old Nik Vucevic and 23-year-old Andrew Nicholson — as much as possible in the Magic’s final 13 games.

And that won’t leave much, if any, time for Harrington, a 33-year-old veteran.

Harrington hasn’t played in Orlando’s last three games, including Wednesday night’s 106-94 loss to the New York Knicks.

“It’s really nothing to do with his knees,” Vaughn said.

“It’s a coach’s decision. I’ve talked to Al just about the remaining games that we have. He’s helped us in the wins at Philly and New Orleans. He’s proven that he can still play this game at a high level, and I’m going to give the opportunity to play to some of our young guys and give them some experience. I think he has experience at this game a little bit already.”

He probably doesn’t fit into the rebuilding franchise’s long-term plans.

Next season, he’s due to earn about $7.1 million, but only $3.55 million of that is guaranteed. In 2013-14, he’s due to earn $7.6 million, but only $3.8 million of that is guaranteed.

If the Magic were to waive him outright this summer, the team would be required to pay him the guaranteed portions of both seasons.

ICYMI of the night: The Bulls were never really in the game against the Blazers, but at least Nate Robinson provided this Dunk Contest-worthy jam last night …:


Magic Should’ve Done Better In Howard Blockbuster Deal

HANG TIME CHICAGO — The key to success in the NBA these days, we were reminded during The Finals, is to have a Big Three of stars who can shoulder the biggest load, no matter the supporting cast assembled around them. In that sense, the Orlando Magic should do just fine in 2012-13.

Night after night, possession after possession, the Magic will attack all comers by running a classic pick-and-roll with Salary-Cap Space as the primary ballhandler and Future Draft Picks coming out to set a high screen. Depending on how a defense reacts, Salary-Cap Space has the option to hand off, pull up to shoot or attack the rim, with a kickout release to the corner where Fancy New Building will be waiting to launch a 3-ball.

S-CS to FDP to FNB. Your new Orlando Magic heroes.

The first thing to remember, as news of the four-team blockbuster Dwight Howard trade leaked and then gained legitimacy Thursday, was that the Orlando franchise had very little choice. Its centerpiece player wanted out in the worst way. And thanks to his constant diva antics from early in the 2011-12 season right into August, Howard seemed determined to go that route: the worst, as in awkward, unprofessional, even shameful.

Yet as the names began to swirl — a mix of All-Stars and starters and role players, from Andrew Bynum and Andre Iguodala to Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and Nikola Vucevic — something else became clear: Orlando was screwed and, even given little choice, should have done better.

If anyone has learned anything from recent NBA free-agent history, it is this: Do not fall in love with someone who does not love you back. Rather, trade his ungrateful quitter’s butt ASAP, bite down hard, deal with the pain up front and move on. The Denver Nuggets should have done it with Carmelo Anthony, the Toronto Raptors should have done it with Chris Bosh and, in hindsight, one could argue that the Cleveland Cavaliers even should have done it with LeBron James. Most of all, though, the Magic should have done it with Howard.

Instead, as if to keep a happy veneer on the fleeting fun of All-Star Weekend 2012, Orlando management let things drag on far too long while getting used and misdirected by Howard and his handlers. It squandered the 2011-12 season, agonized through much of this offseason and now is poised to waste several more years, selling youth and development in an arena meant for superstars and banners.

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Report: Howard Goes to Lakers in Four-Team Blockbuster Trade

The Magic appeared on the verge – again – of trading Dwight Howard amid reports Thursday night that a four-team deal that would send Howard to the Lakers and generate a lot of heat for Orlando was set to be completed.

ESPN.com reported that a trade call has been set for Friday morning to finalize the blockbuster that would feature Los Angeles getting the defensive superstar, Philadelphia getting Andrew Bynum from the Lakers and Jason Richardson from the Magic, Denver getting Andre Igoudala from the 76ers, and Orlando getting Arron Afflalo and Al Harrington from the Nuggets, Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless from the 76ers.

TNT’s David Aldridge reports that the Magic will also receive a future first-round pick from the Sixers, a 2014 first-round pick from the Nuggets and a 2017 first-round pick from the Lakers. The pick from the Sixers will likely have some type of Lottery protection to it while the pick from the Nuggets is the lower of Denver’s two first-rounders that year. Denver also has New York’s first-round pick from the Carmelo Anthony trade.

If the particulars turn out to be accurate, if Bynum and Igoudala are involved in a deal but neither end up in Orlando, if the best current player the Magic get is Afflalo and the best prospect is the No. 15 pick this year, Harkless, Orlando may get buried in the court of public opinion.

Worth noting, of course, is that the specifics could be different when, and if, the deal is finalized. Also, trades have come close to happening before only to fall apart at the end. But never in the months of the Howard soap opera has a trade call been arranged, a signal that all sides had agreed in principle.

Possible Conclusion To The Dwight Howard Odyssey?

LONDON – The end of the Dwight Howard Odyssey could-could-be over soon for the Orlando Magic.

The team is in serious discussions with the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and Philadelphia 76ers about a potential deal that would send Howard to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Magic, Andre Iguodala to the Nuggets and Andrew Bynum to the 76ers. Other players and Draft picks would be included in the deal as well, with the possibility that Gasol or could be flipped for additional assets.

In this scenario, first reported Thursday by Yahoo! Sports, forward Al Harrington would go from Denver to the Lakers, and guard Arron Afflalo would go from Denver to the Magic. However, the final version of the deal, if it happens, would certainly involve additional players — or, perhaps, some of these players winding up in different places.

Two sources said Thursday that this deal could happen, although with so many teams and so many moving parts, the potential for the deal collapsing is ever-present. Another source had indicated to NBA.com earlier in the week that a “blockbuster” deal was on hold because at least two of the teams involved did not want to move forward.

Orlando, however, is determined to end the Howard saga as soon as possible — provided it gets what it wants. It has been adamant that it wants a combination of future picks, young players with short or otherwise reasonable contracts and the removal of some of their its contracts in exchange for Howard.

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