It was late in the fourth quarter of a road game in Portland and the New York Knicks held a slender four-point lead. With only minutes remaining, a chance to break a three-game losing streak was well within reach.
As point guard Chris Duhon found David Lee on the right block, Al Harrington spaced to the corner on the opposite side. He was open, he knew it. And he felt good.
Harrington was feeling good because two nights earlier he’d dropped 27 on the Celtics. Two nights before that he’d put 39 on the Cavs. In fact, since being traded to the Knicks a couple of months earlier in exchange for shooting guard Jamal Crawford, Harrington was playing the best ball of his career.
Thus, the 11-year NBA vet set his feet, caught Lee’s pass and calmly knocked down the corner three. It was a big-money shot from a big-money player and excitable play-by-play broadcaster Gus Johnson captured the moment perfectly…
Yes he does.
Or at least, he did.
After retiring from professional basketball earlier this year, Harrington has been signed by the Sydney Kings as an injury replacement for import/GM Josh Childress.
Without a doubt, it’s an exciting signing for both Sydney and the league.
When he announced his retirement in March, Harrington closed the book on a stellar 16-year NBA career that included stops at seven different teams. His career averages of 13.5 points, 5.6 rebounds while shooting 44 percent from the field are impressive. He is one of only a handful of NBA players to play more than 15 seasons in the league after bypassing college. For context, Harrington’s name sits alongside future Hall-of-famers Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant on that list.
“I’m very happy with what I was able to accomplish,” Harrington said upon retiring.
“I was able to change a lot of people’s lives in my family, including myself, in a game that I eventually fell in love with and will always be in love with. And hopefully, I can stay around the game until I die.”
Retirement was good. Plenty of time for mixed martial arts and hanging with the family. But the fire still burned, Harrington even tweeting his interest in re-joining the Knicks a couple of months ago.
Enter Josh Childress – Harrington’s good friend – from the other side of the world.
With a resume that includes over 1000 NBA games (including playoffs), Childress’ former Atlanta teammate will become the most experienced NBA player to ever play in the NBL when he steps on the floor vs Townsville on Friday night.
“It’s great to get someone of Al’s stature and experience coming in at this stage of the season under the current circumstances,” Kings head coach Damian Cotter said.
Experience is the key word here. Harrington is coming out of retirement at age 35, having not played organised ball since November last year. His last taste was a 56-day stint with Chinese team Fujian Sturgeons – a stint that ended prematurely due to Harrington’s wish to be closer to his family.
On the floor, Harrington is very much the savvy veteran these days. His highlight reel from China is full of wide-open three-point splashes, creative celebrations, power moves from the block and deft finishes on crafty dribble drives.
It’s been a long, long time since Indiana drafted him as a teenager with the 25th pick of the 1998 NBA Draft.
Of course, to him it feels like yesterday.
“It was a fun ride. It went by fast, too. It was like one minute I was 18, the next I was 25, then was 30 and now I’m 35. It was a fun run. Met a lot of great people,” he said earlier this year.
One thing’s for sure, Harrington has always been able to score – especially from long range. Gus Johnson said it when he said it, “I’m Al Harrington, I get buckets!” That skill alone will be a welcome addition to the Sydney line-up.
The Kings are currently seventh in the league in three-point percentage, connecting on only 27 percent of their three-point attempts this season. Only the ice-cold Cairns Taipans have been shooting it worse.
Sydney’s other import, Marcus Thornton, is 5/27 (18%) from beyond the arc. Rhys Carter and Jason Cadee are a combined 12/48 (25%).
If Harrington’s right knee can hold up over the next month or so, he certainly has the potential to deliver some much-needed scoring punch for the 1-4 Kings.
But that’s a massive ‘if’.
After all, Harrington’s right knee has some stories to tell. A torn ACL, torn meniscus, multiple surgeries, a prolonged staph infection… it’s a credit to his work ethic that he’s still walking, let alone balling.
Yet, despite the knee issues, the retirement and the lack of recent game-action, Harrington is on his way. He’s due to arrive in Sydney on Thursday and, all things going well, he’ll don the purple and gold Friday night at the Kingdome.
In 2013/14, Harrington’s last NBA season, the veteran surprised many when he emerged as a genuine spark off the bench for the playoff-bound Wizards. He played double-digit minutes in 19 of Washington’s final 26 regular season games, before Randy Wittman shortened his rotations in the post-season.
Can Harrington deliver that same kind of late-career production for Sydney? Well, if Chill thinks so, I’m on board.
So without further ado, Kings fans, allow me to introduce you to your latest high-profile recruit… his name’s Al Harrington and he gets buckets.