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Fran Blinebury

Al Harrington still knows how to put points on the board and could be a key piece off the bench.
Layne Murdoch/NBAE via Getty Images

Old tricks up these vets' sleeves could benefit teams

Posted Jun 23 2010 9:09PM

Back in his Beatles days, the late John Lennon often warned to never trust anyone over 30. While still in his Hall of Fame Lakers days, the great Jerry West once said that by the time you really understand the game, you're too old to play it.

It's the classic dividing line, a time when you have many of the superstars and at the peak of their powers and others who are on the downhill side of their careers, just trying to hang on.

Some 30-year-olds, as Lennon mentioned, are no longer trustworthy. But others, as West suggested, have learned that experience and wisdom can go as far as youth and hang time. Here are five veterans, 30 and up, who are still worth a look in free agency:

Al Harrington

Pos: PF
Height: 6-9
Age: 30
Status: Unrestricted free agent

Since the first six seasons of his career in Indiana, Harrington has done enough bouncing around to have changed his name to Spalding. But after playing for four different teams in the past six years -- including two separate stints each at Golden State and New York -- he is someone who can create his own shot in the open court and put points up on the board. He's listed as a power forward, but has never rebounded like one and he's not going to make anyone stop in their tracks to take notice of his defense. But now that he has made the transition back to coming off the bench, he's the kind of offensive weapon that can be a game-changer, especially if you get him out on the floor in the running game. Going to have to take a big cut from last year's $10 million salary, but in the right situation can still contribute.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas

Pos: C
Height: 7-3
Age: 35
Status: Unrestricted free agent

Is he done, washed up, finished? You'd have thought that from the way Ilgauskas was ignored and virtually chained to the Cleveland bench down the home stretch and the playoffs as he sat behind Shaquille O'Neal and sometimes J.J. Hickson. But there was no shortage of suitors when he was briefly cut loose at mid-season, and once the buzzing around the superstars dies down, there will be plenty of teams trying to get Big Z onto their roster. He hasn't lost any speed or quickness, because he's always had the mobility of a cruise ship. But he sticks his nose in the middle of things to play solid defense and will win his share of battles to claim rebounds. He'll definitely stay in a backup role wherever he lands, but for 15-20 minutes per night he's still got all of the tools and the desire to make a solid contribution.

Brad Miller

Pos: C
Height: 7-0
Age: 34
Status: Unrestricted free agent

As the highest-paid player on his team, which he was at $12.25 million last season with the Bulls, Miller was a resounding disappointment, a flop even. He's getting slower, less mobile and his medium range shot practically fell off a cliff as he lost his starting center role over the course of a season. But that was a mistake all along to plug him into that role. At this point in his career, he's a guy who can play 15 minutes a night, 20 in a pinch. That doesn't expose you too much to his diminishing defensive abilities, but can still take advantage of a good head for the game and a shot that you've got to bet hasn't left him if you're not asking him to play too many minutes and do too much. He's got virtually no leverage, so you're going to get him for a song and in the process add an excellent teammate who helps make things work in the locker room.

Mike Miller

Pos: G-F
Height: 6-8
Age: 30
Status: Unrestricted free agent

Maybe it was the haircut and the loss of the trendy hair band that changed everything. But for some reason, when Miller moved from Memphis to Minnesota two seasons ago, he altered his style of play and virtually ruined his game. The trade to Washington last season didn't help as he continued to play away from his strength -- shooting. Now he says he's ready to return to being his old self and after toiling in the backwaters for too long, says he wants to join a winning team. There are some who think he's lost it and on the inevitable slide toward oblivion. But there's no reason to think that he can't go back to being the solid long-range threat with a change of scenery that puts him on a team where he can the designated sniper.

Jermaine O'Neal

Pos: C
Height: 6-11
Age: 31
Status: Unrestricted free agent

It's been a long time since he could put up the 20 and 10 averages that resulted in the burdensome contract that eventually paid him just under $23 million last season. But O'Neal made a commitment last season to get into the proper condition and played for the most part as a decent complement to Dwyane Wade's game in Miami. His 52.9 shooting percentage with the Heat was by far the best of his 14-year NBA career. There's a part of him that still believes he can do more on offense. The key is to convince him of his value and his efficiency if he just stays close to the hoop and cleans up in the paint while putting most of his focus into the defensive end of the floor. A prospective team must be wary of the many injuries that have plagued him since 2005. But if you can pick him up at a low, low price -- and he stays healthy -- he can solidify a playoff team's bench. He's an old hand worth taking a flyer on for the right price.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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