I was sitting with some friends this evening discussing the NBA. The conversation turned to the recent trade between the Bucks and the Pistons that saw, in principle, the Bucks acquire Brandon Knight for Brandon Jennings. I am not a fan of Jennings', but my friend was — or at least he preferred him over Knight. Then I made the statement that unfortunately became the clincher in our argument. Brandon Knight is still on his rookie contract and the terms of Jennings contract (proved later to be reported at three years, $24 million) were not yet public.
This is the unfortunate part of every NBA conversation now in the wake of the 2011 lockout. Teams are more conscious about their finances, turning players into assets more and more.
When the Magic acquired Al Harrington and his three years remaining on his contract last summer, that was what Harrington was. Merely an asset.
Orlando had use for his locker room presence and the influence he coudl have on the young players through his hard work and professionalism. But, on the court, Harrington would amount only to a player to be traded or cap space to use. When his torn meniscus turned into a staph infection after surgery. He struggled to come back from the injury and ended up playing only 10 games before being relegated to the bench in favor of young players playing heavy minutes.
The Magic appear to have no intention in bringing him back for next season. Whether the Magic buy out the final two seasons of his contract (guaranteed for only half of the $14.7 million he is owed) or find a taker in a trade, Harrington has become a casualty of this new NBA.
And, as he tells Sam Amick of USA TODAY, he is frustrated by it:
Being in that situation in Orlando, you get a real good look at politics and stuff like that, the part of the game that's not attractive — just the business side of it. One thing I realized is that it's not about how much you can play or what you can do on the court anymore. The game has become about (financial) numbers and salaries and stuff like that. It's not what you can do anymore. It's what you can do at that price. And everybody wants a deal, you know what I mean?
Harrington has been training in Las Vegas, trying to get back into shape and regain the form that had him averaging 14.2 points per game in 2012 with the Nuggets. Harrington wants to prove he can still contribute at 33 years old. And he very well could.
Orlando never really gave him that chance, unfortunately. And the organization is not helping him by letting him hang out in limbo. Give credit to Harrington for staying professional and not clamoring even more. He is clearly frustrated, but understands the situation the Magic are in.
Harrington should get his opportunity (likely on a more modest salary) from someone in the NBA once he gets his release. And it seems Al will be ready. He does not want his career to end.