Nuggets forward Harrington aiming to play through knee injury

Veteran has been leader on and off the court in 2011-12

As a leader in the locker room and on the court, Al Harrington’s value to the Nuggets this season has been immeasurable.

Coming off the bench in 56 of 57 games, he leads the team in double-figure scoring and rebounding games.

He is now bidding to lead the Nuggets in pain tolerance.

Harrington suffered a knee strain April 1 against Orlando but has been playing with discomfort for the past four games. With nine games remaining and every game carrying playoff implications, he is not planning to watch idly from the sideline.

“Knowing Al, I think he’s going to stay with us and try to play through it,” Nuggets coach George Karl said Tuesday. “What does that mean? I don’t know. We’re going to have observe (him) and some games maybe extend him and some games sit him.”

Now 14 years into his career, Harrington relies more on savvy and smarts than quickness and agility, so a knee injury is not as critical to his play as it might be for other players.

He has a knack for sliding into the open spot for a quick-release three-pointer, and he has the ability to back defenders down for easy baskets in the paint.

While guards Ty Lawson and Arron Afflalo and forwards Kenneth Faried and Danilo Gallinari are the key pieces of Denver’s young nucleus, Harrington has been the steadying force all season.

After struggling with injuries in 2010-11, Harrington is averaging 14.5 points and 6.2 rebounds while serving as the big man in Denver’s closing fourth-quarter lineup.

“No one could’ve expected what we’ve got,” Karl said. “The most optimistic Al Harrington Fan Club member never could think what was going to happen this year.

“He’s not only won games and he’s not only the guy offensively and defensively that we need on the court at the end of games, he’s a locker room leader. He says great things to the young coaches, and he and I have a relationship of communication that’s pretty good.”

Harrington certainly has had an influence on young rookie Faried, who continues to impress his teammates, coaches and opponents alike.

Faried set career highs with 27 points and 17 rebounds in Monday night’s 123-84 win against Golden State. It was a performance he described as just “another day in the office.”

“Kenneth was all over the place, blocking shots, taking charges and seeing plays before the plays happened,” Gallinari said.

After reviewing the game video, Karl described his rookie forward as “pretty impressive.” Equally impressive has been Faried’s rise from an early season observer to a reliable starter who is often on the court in the fourth quarter.

“I thought he would get on the court, but I thought he would get on the court at the end of the year,” Karl said. “Situations and injuries and circumstances gave him a window of opportunity that he has just jumped through and said, ‘I’m not going to give this back.’ I think it’s a pleasant surprise.”

The Nuggets (31-26) will look for another inspired effort Wednesday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Led by Kevin Love’s 30 points and 21 rebounds, Minnesota beat Denver by 17 points in Minneapolis on March 25.

“It’s time to stay locked in,” Afflalo said after routing Golden State. “Don’t be satisfied. We’ve got a hungry Minnesota team coming in here. We have to have that same mindset to begin the game.”

Aaron Lopez
Aaron J. Lopez is the primary writer for, providing behind-the-scenes content, including feature stories and video for the site. Before joining the Nuggets in 2009, he spent 15 years covering Colorado sports for the Rocky Mountain News and the Associated Press, making him one of the longest-tenured sports writers in Denver. Aaron's full bio...