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Will Galen
10-04-2004, 10:53 AM
By MICHAEL LEE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/03/04


If Al Harrington doesn't become a star in Atlanta, he can't blame his coach for not giving him more minutes or enough scoring opportunities.

If Harrington does become a star for the Hawks, it will be because he was finally given what he never received in six seasons with the Indiana Pacers: a starting job and the pressure to produce.


"It's a challenge that I've been looking forward to my whole career," said Harrington, 24, who was dealt to the Hawks for Stephen Jackson in July. "I can handle the load. I have so much more to offer. I feel like I'm an all-around player."

The Hawks have provided Harrington the platform to follow the paths of Tracy McGrady and his best friend and former teammate, Jermaine O'Neal preps-to-pros stars who gained All-Star status upon departing their original teams. General manager Billy Knight believes that it is within Harrington's grasp.

"Al hadn't been thrust into the spotlight as 'the guy,' " said Knight, who was in the Pacers' front office when they drafted Harrington, a 6-foot-9 forward, out of St. Patrick's (N.J.) High in 1998. "So, in some ways that's good because he got to work and develop and understand his role and all that. In other ways, you can say he could've developed more, stepped out further. But regardless of what should've, could've, would've, this is how it is. Now he has the opportunity to step it up and show his full repertoire.

"No matter what happens, good, bad or indifferent, I know this: Al Harrington doesn't have any retreat in his program," Knight said. "He's going forward. There isn't any stepping back."

Two years ago, Harrington told Pacers CEO Donnie Walsh that he might have to move on to truly blossom. After finishing runner-up for the sixth man of the year, Harrington finally asked for a trade the day after being eliminated from the conference finals.

"It wasn't about starting. It was more an issue I had with my coach," Harrington said of Pacers coach Rick Carlisle. "For some reason Rick didn't have the same amount of confidence in me that the rest of the organization had in me. I felt I paid my dues, and I felt things should be worked a lot more to me than he did. That was my biggest problem in Indiana.

"When you're on a team with 61 wins, there is not too much that you can complain about," he said. "I just felt that I was being held back too much."

Carlisle didn't dispute Harrington's claims that he had to abandon aspects of his game for the success of the team. Harrington was forced to come off the bench last season because the Pacers had two All-Star forwards in O'Neal and Ron Artest.

"He made big sacrifices," Carlisle said. "I always knew he wanted to touch the ball more, but he did what he had to do to help our team.

"This is his time to prove that he is a top player in this league, and I think he will. It's the perfect situation for him, where he can be the focal point of an offense and an anchor on defense. Al's a guy that has the ability to be an All-Star caliber player."

Walsh calls Harrington "one of my favorite people" and said he didn't want to trade him.

"But I couldn't deny him. I knew it was the right thing to do," Walsh said. "Al is going to be a terrific player there. I expect Al to be a 20-plus scorer. He'll have a breakout year."

Harrington said he also had to sell O'Neal on the trade. Harrington refers to Pacers teammates O'Neal and Jonathan Bender as being "like brothers."

"It was crazy, but I had to convince him that it was time," Harrington said. "I had to use him as an example. 'Look at what you did you when you left.' And he felt for me."

O'Neal sat the bench for four years in Portland before he was traded to Indiana in 2000. He has since been to two All-Star games, and he came in third in MVP balloting last season.

"That's what I plan on making happen now that I have the opportunity to play my game [and] showcase what I got," Harrington said. "I just want to make sure I'm a big part of things turning around in Atlanta."

Kegboy
10-04-2004, 11:51 AM
Not to jinx him, but considering it's the Hawks, I bet most everyone in Atlanta who read this is thinking, "If he's so great, he'll probably get hurt in training camp."

McKeyFan
10-04-2004, 01:39 PM
"For some reason Rick didn't have the same amount of confidence in me that the rest of the organization had in me." :rolleyes:

Nice of Rick to take the hit for all this. I think his quotes are pretty classy.

Truth be known, I think Al could be a pretty prolific scorer in Atlanta, especially if they are like last year--losers.

And it's also possible that the right combination of players and styles could make Al a scorer AND a winner. But if past is prologue, we'll see a lot of forced shots and low percentage heaves.

My prediction: Al averages 18 and 8 and leads the Hawks to a 35 win season.

Slick Pinkham
10-04-2004, 02:18 PM
If Al scores 20 a game for them, some here might be wanting to jump off of a cliff.

But...

The stats on a really bad team do not translate well. Bob Sura was statistically one of the top 10 point guards in the league over the last 2 months of the season last year. Put him on a good team and he plays 10-15 minutes per game.

Al will be happy with gaudy stats for awhile.

Something tells me that he will have a bit of a knot in his stomach, however, when he's talking to his "brothers" playing in the NBA finals and HE is trying to remember what it was like to play in meaningful games.

Shade
10-04-2004, 02:22 PM
In the limited opportunities Al got to start in JO's place, he never seemed to come through. Some guys just play better off the bench. At least there will be a reason to keep an eye on the Hawks this year, for a change.

able
10-05-2004, 06:34 AM
Shade; on the spot!

Al does the talk, but has yet to do the walk, something o do not see him do anywhere, except where he is now, due to lack of competition.

I am only imagining what those little remarks on the side meant over the off-season like "now we should all have the same agenda"
I think Al despite being a Bro, had a lot to do with less then good synergy on the team.

Hicks
10-05-2004, 10:46 AM
I thought Al did OK filling in for JO :shrug: