August 3, 2006
Walsh: Pacers keep their options open
With agent change, Harrington deal unlikely to happen anytime soon
By Mark Montieth
Al Harrington hopes a change of agents will be the agent of change that brings a resolution to his free agency.
Just how that affects the Indiana Pacers' status as the leading contender for Harrington remains to be seen. CEO Donnie Walsh, however, remains hopeful even as he considers possible backup plans.
"We do think about that," Walsh said. "We'll spend the rest of the summer developing something I think will be good. If (the Pacers lose Harrington), we still have the trade exception.
"I don't see anybody in the free agent market that fills (the need for a starting forward) other than Al. At the same time, I think through trades there may be somebody out there who fits our team. I've got some people in mind. We'll have to see."
Harrington's status became murkier after he dropped agent Andy Miller in favor of Arn Tellem earlier this week, arousing speculation that the bidding will be reopened. Harrington has said he would like to return to the Pacers, where he played his first six NBA seasons.
The Pacers were the only team negotiating for Harrington in recent weeks, and had reached a standstill with Atlanta, his most recent team.
For Tellem to bring significant change to the negotiations, he'll have to convince the Hawks to take back contracts that would add to their payroll, something they have not wanted to do.
If he achieves that, the Pacers could use their trade exception in a three- or four-team deal to acquire Harrington, or look elsewhere for frontcourt help.
The Pacers also have the mid-level exception, which would allow them to offer a free agent contract starting at $5.2 million, and the biannual exception of $1.8 million.
They could use their trade exception and the mid-level without having to pay the luxury tax, but Walsh indicated that would be done only if a special opportunity arises. They also can use a portion of the mid-level exception.
Tellem did not return a telephone call to his office. Harrington has been unreachable since changing his cell number.
According to NBA rules, Tellem cannot officially become Harrington's agent for two weeks after the termination letter was sent to Miller. A trade can be made during that period, however, with the National Basketball Players Association acting on Harrington's behalf. Tellem still can negotiate the trade and receive a fee for his work.
"I'm sure there will be a period where Arn is going to go back over the steps taken by Andy, so there will be a delay," Walsh said. "Other than that, there shouldn't be a difference. I've dealt with both men. I thought Andy did everything he should have done. Arn will do everything he should do."
The Pacers had offered their $7.5 million trade exception and a first-round draft pick to the Hawks for Harrington, who averaged 18.6 points and 6.9 rebounds last season. They might have been willing to take back former Pacers center John Edwards in the deal, but the talks stalled over whether the Pacers would include a cash payment.
That all could change now that Tellem is representing Harrington. Walsh, however, is comfortable working with Tellem, who represented former Pacers Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson and Jonathan Bender, and now represents Jermaine O'Neal.
Tellem already has talked with Walsh a few times regarding Harrington as well as members of Atlanta's ownership group in an attempt to recharge the process.
"There's a lot of time yet," Walsh said.