After languishing two years in near-obscurity, Al Harrington has found another team to give him a shot. his time, in China.
The veteran forward and the Fujian SBS Xunxing Sturgeons agreed on a deal that may allow Harrington to prove he should earn rotation spot on an NBA team in the future. Harrington announced the deal on Instagram, stating:
1st I wanna say that I will be Playing in the CBA League in China Next Season... Looking forward to the Challenge at hand. To help my team reach the Playoffs and WIN once we get there. Secondly I wanna say THANK YOU to the Washington Wizards Organization (Ted Leonsis, Ernie Grunfeld, Tommy Sheppard, and Randy Whitman and his Staff) for giving me the opportunity to show that I could Still Play at the highest level of NBA Action and the platform to help Lead the team back into the playoffs and be an influence on the locker room. Wanna thank all my teammates for encouraging me to get back from injury and taking me on a Wonderful Ride to the 2nd round of the Playoffs! KEEP BUILDING ON WHAT WAS STARTED LAST YEAR!!! And last by not least the AMAZING DMV FAN BASE.... You guys really made me feel at home in my one season playing there and I encourage y'all to continue Supporting the Product that's being put on the floor at the PHONE BOOTH... It's Gonna be some great basketball being played there for a long time to come! Anyone I left out in that Amazing City... THANK YOU TOO! Now back to WORK!!! #wizkids #dmv #china #hereIcome
Bleacher Report's Jared Zwerling originally reported on Friday he would sign with the Chinese team for one year.
Harrington, 34, spent last season with the Washington Wizards. He averaged 6.6 points and 2.4 rebounds on 39.6 percent shooting in 34 appearances. He missed three months following a November knee injury and never quite carved out a niche coming off Washington's bench.
Head coach Randy Wittman all but excised him from the rotation in the playoffs until rolling the dice with him as the Wizards' series against the Indiana Pacers slipped away. Harrington played only 59 minutes in seven appearances, 23 of which came in one contest.
The combination of knee issues and natural aging left Harrington largely a shell of his former heights. He's played in just 44 regular-season games over the past two seasons, one with Washington and the other in Orlando. After more than a decade of averaging double-digit points per game, the recent downturn had many thinking he'd settle for retirement.
But Harrington has been consistent in his desire to play. Even after the Wizards signed Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair—three players who will ostensibly take most if not all of his playing time—Harrington privately expressed a desire to return, per CSN Washington's J. Michael. That fell in line with what he said to Zwerling in April, indicating he'd like to be picked up around the All-Star break.
"So let me have that time to take care of my body and get my leg strong," Harrington wrote in the first-person piece told to Zwerling. "I can do 30 games; that's nothing. Obviously I don't have a Hall of Fame legacy or anything like that, but I just want to go out on my own terms and I feel like the opportunity is right here in front of me."
Harrington can still be an effective player when playing the right role. A stretch 4 before it became the most desired position in basketball, he's a career 35.2 percent shooter from three-point range whom teams consistently respect. The Wizards scored nearly four more points per 100 possessions last season with Harrington on the floor, per NBA.com.
Lineup stats can be a bit noisy, but his effect rings true. They had a higher effective field-goal percentage and true shot percentage while every other metrics remained largely the same. Though Harrington is no longer an effective defender—Wittman was often forced to stash him on the worst player on the floor—he still understands and executes team defensive concepts.
He even served as a coach on the Wizards' Summer League staff. There is value having veterans of his ilk hanging around on the bench even if he's not going to receive consistent playing time. Point guard John Wall took massive strides after Washington surrounded him with veterans, as did shooting guard Bradley Beal.
Now with the Fujian SBS Xunxing Sturgeons, Harrington will look to convince NBA teams that he is healthy enough to return to the league and help a team win a championship. Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post weighed in on Harrington's future:
Though the Chinese Basketball Association does not grant opt-out clauses to players, Harrington still could join an NBA team before the end of the season because the Chinese league’s season concludes in March.
He isn't the first high-profile player to head overseas and it is now clear that a trend is developing with aging role players. This should prove to be a great opportunity or Harrington, as long as he can stay healthy.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.