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Al Harrington Heading to Denver for Five-Year Deal

Jul 14, 2010 – 1:55 AM
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Chris Tomasson

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The Denver Nuggets finally got the big man they desperately needed.

A source confirmed Tuesday night to FanHouse the Nuggets will sign free-agent forward Al Harrington to a five-year, $33.4 million contract. There are no option years in the deal in which the Nuggets will use their full mid-level exception.

Harrington's deal, which starts next season at $5.765 million, was first reported by ESPN.com. Later, Harrington confirmed the deal on Twitter, saying, "I'm taking my talents to the Mile High (City).''

The 6-foot-9 Harrington also was looking at Dallas. But, with Denver big men Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen both likely to miss the start of next season after having undergone knee surgeries, Harrington, 30, was in line for more playing time with the Nuggets than with the Mavericks.

The Nuggets previously had lost out after tendering offers for the full mid-level to big men Jermaine O'Neal, who went to Boston, and Udonis Haslem, who stayed with Miami.

Bill Duffy, the agent for Linas Kleiza, believes Denver's move means the Nuggets won't match the four-year, $18.8 million offer sheet extended last week by Toronto to Kleiza, a restricted free-agent small forward.

"I guess that takes them out of Kleiza,'' Duffy told FanHouse, referring to the 6-8 Kleiza, who now would be in even more of a logjam playing behind 6-8 starter Carmelo Anthony and with Harrington also able to play small forward.



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The Nuggets are still expected to huddle during the next few days to decide their course of action on Kleiza. Prior to reaching the deal on Harrington, sources said the Nuggets were giving stronger consideration to matching the offer on Kleiza than they previously had due to having initially failed to land anyone in free agency and the thinking they might look to play small ball.

But now they've got Harrington, who averaged 17.7 points and 5.6 rebounds last season for New York, and has 12-year averages of 14.1 points and 5.8 rebounds. He scored 41 points last Nov. 27 at Denver but was overshadowed by Anthony scoring 50 in his team's 128-125 win.

The move no doubt will help in the chances of Anthony, who can be a free agent as soon as next summer, signing this summer the three-year, $64.7 million contract extension he has been offered. Anthony had told FanHouse last month he wanted to see what moves the Nuggets might make this summer. However, FanHouse reported earlier this month Anthony is expected to sign the extension offer.

The Mavericks, with general manager Donnie Nelson saying Shaquille O'Neal is no longer an option with Dallas on Tuesday having acquired center Tyson Chandler, now might not use their full mid-level exception. In using a portion of it, they might increase their interest in free-agent forward Anthony Tolliver, whom sources said is being looked at by Atlanta, Chicago, Golden State, the Lakers and Utah in addition to the Mavericks.

Despite locking up Harrington, the Nuggets still have some size problems. The season likely will open with 6-11 Nene starting at center and Harrington at power forward. Denver still needs to acquire at least one more post player using its $2.08 million biannual exception, through a trade or with a minimum contract.

Not that he was a key player, but Nuggets center Brian Butch underwent surgery Tuesday for a ruptured left patella after suffering the knee injury last Saturday in a game at the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Sources said Butch is likely out six months, with an outside chance he could return in as soon as four if everything goes well.

Butch has a contract worth the minimum of $762,195 that becomes fully guaranteed around mid-August. But the Nuggets might not be able to waive him due to his injury, which means he could last the season on the roster. And he's no longer a trade chip if another team can't waive him.

But the Nuggets on Tuesday were just happy to finally get the big man they needed.

Chris Tomasson can be reached at tomasson@fanhouse.com or on Twitter @christomasson.
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