Al Harrington Says Nuggets Have 'More Potential' Than Mavericks
Free-agent forward Al Harrington agreed late Tuesday night to a five-year, $33.4 million contract with the Nuggets, choosing them over the Dallas Mavericks. In an interview Wednesday with FanHouse at the NBA Summer League, Harrington offered his reasons why.
"Because I just think this team (Denver) got a little bit more potential (than Dallas),'' Harrington said. "Being able to play with (Denver point guard) Chauncey Billups is huge for me. Me and Chauncey have worked out in the summer the last 12 summers. So I'm very familiar with him, and he did a lot. He talked to me a lot about it also, so it made me more comfortable in my decision.''
But back up for a moment. Why does Harrington believe the Nuggets, the No. 4 seed in the West last season, have more potential than the Mavericks, who were No. 2 and appear to still be the West's second-best team after the Lakers following Tuesday's acquisition of center Tyson Chandler?
"I like our team,'' Harrington said. "I got to. I think we're going to be one of the top teams in the West. So I'm excited about that.''
Harrington watched Denver's summer game Wednesday afternoon against Houston sitting courtside with Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke and Nuggets officials Josh Kroenke, the owner's son, and Bret Bearup. He had a big smile on his face much of the time.
"Why not?'' the 6-foot-9 Harrington, who averaged 17.7 points and 5.6 rebounds last season with New York, said of joining the Nuggets. "You look at the team, the way it is set up. Being able to play with (Carmelo Anthony), Chauncey, Kenyon (Martin). Nene. The team is loaded. J.R. (Smith), (Ty) Lawson. I'm just excited to get back to playing playoff basketball (Harrington hasn't been in the postseason since 2007). So I'm very happy that Mr. Kroenke has the confidence in me.''
Others with the Nuggets are happy as well.
"I love it,'' said Smith, a six-year veteran who surprisingly played in Denver's final two summer games. "Al's a great guy. A (New) Jersey guy. He's a guy I looked up to growing up in New Jersey. I can't wait to play with him. It's exciting.
"He brings versatility. He can handle the ball. He can rebound, shoot from the outside. He's our type of player. We definitely need him.''
Do the Nuggets ever. Big men Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen both underwent knee surgeries this offseason, and could be hampered for next season.
While the Nuggets haven't given any timetables on when either could return, Denver guard Anthony Carter, who re-signed with the team on a one-year minimum deal on a Wednesday that also featured forward Shelden Williams getting a one-year minimum deal, recently talked to Martin and saw Andersen earlier this week.
"Kenyon's definitely going to miss the start of training camp, but there's a chance he could be ready for the opener,'' Carter said. "But I know (Andersen) will be back for training camp. I just saw him the other day.''
If Martin isn't ready for the season opener, put Harrington is as the starting power forward.
"I'm sure I'll probably play a little bit more minutes than I'm sure everybody wants me to play at the beginning (of the season),'' said Harrington, who also can play small forward and who mostly came off the bench last season with the Knicks. "But, hopefully, we can hold the ship down until (Martin and Andersen get back fully healthy). ... I'll do whatever it takes to help us win, whether it's coming off the bench or starting or being the sixth or seventh man. I'm ready to go.''
The Nuggets believe Anthony, who was unavailable for comment while on his honeymoon in Costa Rica after getting married last Saturday, is pleased by the move. The Nuggets star has been offered a three-year, $64.7 million contract extension.
Anthony had told FanHouse last month he wanted to see what moves the Nuggets might make this offseason. However, FanHouse reported earlier last week Anthony is expected to eventually sign the extension offer.
"I think it's good,'' Lawson said of adding Harrington for the team's future. "We need a shooting big. That's one of the things that we lacked last year. That's a big signing for us.''
The move means the Nuggets most likely won't match by Friday's deadline a four-year, $18.8 million offer sheet that Toronto tendered last week to Denver restricted free-agent forward Linas Kleiza. The Nuggets can match any offer on Kleiza since they have Bird rights on him but, with Kleiza due to make about $5 million next season, that would be $10 million when the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax is considered.
"They did that signing. They're probably not going to (match),'' Toronto general manager Bryan Colangelo said Wednesday afternoon, but said he hasn't heard anything from the Nuggets. "I can only speculate. We'll wait it out. If they have an answer for us earlier, we'll gladly take it.''
The Nuggets look to have their roster mostly in order for next season after this week's moves. And this fall they'll start to learn more about how much Harrington has left.
Harrington, 30, came directly from high school to enter the NBA in 1998, and has 12-year averages of 14.1 points and 5.8 rebounds. He doesn't believe he has any more wear and tear on him than a player the same age who had gone to college.
"I think I've got five,'' Harrington said of how many very effective seasons he has left, not coincidentally choosing the same number as the length of his contract. "I don't think I have that much wear and tear on my body. As long as I stay in shape and work hard during the summer, I think I'll be fine.''
While Dallas, like Denver, offered Harrington the full mid-level exception starting at $5.765 million, Harrington didn't want to talk about whether the Mavericks were willing to offer him the five fully guaranteed years that Denver did.
"My agent (Dan Fegan) ... said I had a choice of where I wanted to go (between the Mavericks and Nuggets), and I wanted to come (to Denver),'' Harrington said.
After all, Harrington believes the Nuggets have more potential than the Mavericks.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @christomasson