By Ryan McNeill
You can forgive basketball fans for only thinking of Al Harrington as primarily a shooter. After all, he is a player who has averaged 14.1 points during his career while playing for teams in New York and Golden State that weren’t known as being defensive stalwarts.
However, it was Harrington’s defense on Andrea Bargnani last night that helped Denver escape Toronto with a win.
Bargnani got off to a hot start shooting 3-5 from the field for nine of Toronto’s first 19 points in the first quarter while Shelden Williams was guarding him. George Karl quickly switched up that defensive assignment and saw instant results. After Karl put Harrington on Bargnani, the Italian big man went a putrid 4-12 from the field the rest of the game.
Following the game Karl was quick to shower praise on Harrington for his efforts on the defensive end.
“Al’s actually won just as many games this year with his offense as he has with his defense,” Karl admitted to HOOPSADDICT.com. “I think early in his career he made a name for himself as a defender. Tonight I thought he and Nene, from the second quarter forward, had pretty good control of what Bargnani did until the end when he got a couple of quick fouls in the third quarter.”
When I approached Harrington about his defense after the game he quickly joked that he wants to be Defensive Player of the Year this season.
When the laughter subsided, he admitted he takes a lot of pride in his defense.
“I’ve been playing pretty good defense all season and that is definately something I am trying to get better at,” Harrington admitted to HOOPSADDICT.com. “Heading into this season Coach and other people were telling me I wasn’t a defensive player and I felt like they were wrong so I’ve been trying to prove them wrong every night.”
While Harrington might not win Defensive Player of the Year honors, but he should be able to change his reputation with fans, players and coaches around the NBA if he continues to play like he did against Toronto.