Denton: Magic Request Waivers on Al Harrington
By John Denton
August 2, 2013
ORLANDO – In a move that aids their future financial flexibility and also accommodates the wishes of a veteran player, the Orlando Magic requested waivers on veteran power forward Al Harrington on Friday.
The transaction allows Harrington, 33, to become an unrestricted free agent and possibly join another contending team. The 15-year NBA veteran said after last season that he understandably wasn’t in the plans for the transitioning Magic and hoped to finish out his career with a team in the playoff race.
Harrington’s contract called for him to be owed $14.7 million over the next two seasons, but only half of his salary in 2013-14 and 2014-15 was guaranteed. Magic GM Rob Hennigan worked on several trade possibilities for Harrington, but ultimately reached a buyout compromise that best-suited both the franchise and the player.
The Magic have yet to reach an agreement with small forward Hedo Turkoglu, another veteran player whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season. Turkoglu, a 13-year veteran who has been with the Magic for two stints, is hoping to work out a buyout with the Magic so that he too can join a veteran-laden team. The 32-year-old Turkoglu averaged career lows across the board last season, but is hoping he can still catch on with another team and continue his NBA career.
Turkoglu, who is guaranteed only half of his $12 million salary for next season, played just 11 games with the Magic last season because of a broken hand and a NBA-mandated suspension. Turkoglu has continued to speak highly of the Magic organization and Orlando, saying that Central Florida will always be home for him even after he’s finished playing.
The resolution with Harrington’s contract and the possible buyout of Turkoglu would leave the Magic with just three fully guaranteed contracts following the 2013-14 season. Veteran point guard Jameer Nelson has a partially guaranteed deal for 2014-15, while prized young players Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless, Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn and Doron Lamb have team options following the upcoming season.
By retaining their financial flexibility, the Magic could become major players in the NBA’s free-agency sweepstakes in the summers of 2014 and ’15. They could potentially have the salary cap space to sign one or two maximum-salaried players.
Harrington came to the Magic via the four-team, 12-player trade that involved Orlando, Denver, Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Lakers last August. In addition to getting Harrington and veteran shooting guard Arron Afflalo from the Nuggets, that trade also plied the Magic with promising prospects in Vucevic and Harkless.
Harrington averaged 5.1 points and 2.7 rebounds while playing in just 10 games for the Magic this past season. His career was put in serious jeopardy a year ago when he contracted a serious staph infection following a seemingly routine arthroscopic knee surgery. Harrington needed three more surgeries and around-the-clock nursing care to recover from the staph infection.
Harrington spent most of last season rehabilitating at the Magic facility and working with the team’s strength and conditioning staff. During that time, he also served as a mentor for O’Quinn and Nicholson.
Eager to prove that he could still play, Harrington made a stirring return to the court on Feb. 26 in Philadelphia. Harrington scored all nine of his points, hit a 3-pointer and handed out two assists in the second half of Orlando’s 98-84 rout of the Sixers.
A week later, Harrington played a big role in another victory by scoring 10 points, grabbing five rebounds and hitting two 3-pointers in Orlando’s come-from-behind defeat of the New Orleans Hornets.
Harrington didn’t play again after March 15 as the Magic instead turned the focus toward increasing playing time for young players such as Harris, Nicholson and O’Quinn.
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