New Position, Number Challenge Harrington

Though center is a new concept, Al Harrington will embrace his role with the Pacers, however it evolves.
(Ron Hoskins/NBAE/Getty Images)
By Conrad Brunner | Oct. 4, 2006
New position. New number. New hairstyle.

There has been a lot for Al Harrington to adjust to since leaving Atlanta. Considering the biggest positive was, well, leaving Atlanta, he's willing to accept whatever comes his way in his second time around with the Pacers. If that means a guy who came into the league as a small forward and developed into a star as a power forward has to play center, so be it.

It's not like the Pacers will ask Harrington to defend Shaquille O'Neal and Yao Ming, although it would be interesting to see them endeavor to guard him.

"It's just a name," he said. "I'm still going to go out there and play my game the way I play. I know I'm not a center and that's to my advantage because there's no way any center in the league can guard me."

With Danny Granger at small forward and Jermaine O'Neal at power forward, that only left one position available for Harrington, but that doesn't mean he's the full-timer in the five spot. Few teams have true centers. In fact, it has become predominant for teams to start a pair of post players. That's what the Pacers will do with Harrington and O'Neal. Against the bigger teams, Jeff Foster could step into the lineup.

Harrington is also struggling with the switch to No. 32. He broke into the league with No. 25 but has worn No. 3 for the bulk of his career. He said Sarunas Jasikevicius, who currently wears No. 3 with the Pacers, offered to give up the number but Harrington decided to keep No. 32.

That doesn't mean it's easy, though.

"I still sign everything 'A.H. 3'," he said, shaking his head. "I have to go back and put the '2' on everything."

Is it fate, irony or mere coincidence that the digits in his new number add up to five?

Harrington also showed up at training camp with another new look: a Mohawk hair style.

"I'm just doing something different to see how it works out," he said. "The thing is, this is easy. I'll keep it as long as I'm going good but if I hit a rough spot out there I might have to cut it off."


TWO-A-DAYS NO MORE

A rule change that limited the amount of on-court practice time to three total hours per day has led to most teams, including the Pacers, changing their training-camp routine and abandon the two-a-day practices that had been routine. Carlisle has opted for one long practice each day. "If you split it up into two practices, those practices have to be shorter and you can lose some of your time with another round of stretching and so forth," he said. "Our practices are very taxing because they require a lot of concentration and a lot of physical activity. In a way, it presents an even greater challenge than the two-a-days."


NICKS, BIRD RE-UNITE

Carl Nicks has rejoined a certain former Indiana State University teammate as the newest member of the Pacers' scouting staff. Nicks replaces George Felton, who was hired as the Spurs' Director of College Player Personnel. A star in his own right for the Sycamores who teamed with current Pacers President Larry Bird on the 1979 NCAA runners-up, Nicks was a first-round pick (No. 23 overall) by Denver in 1980. After playing three seasons with three NBA teams, averaging 6.8 points, Nicks moved into other ventures, including a stint as assistant to former ISU coach Bill Hodges at Mercer University in Macon, GA. Nicks moved to Indianapolis in 1998 and had worked as a coach in the Pike Township system as well as running a program for at-risk teenagers for Methodist Hospital. Nicks said he and Bird had maintained a friendship through the years. "Out of all the guys, me and him have probably talked the most, stayed in touch," Nicks said. "Larry and I always got along. He always respected me, I always had a great deal of respect for him and we just always clicked."


COOPER SCOUTING FOR T-BIRDS

Michael Cooper, the former Lakers defensive ace, was at practice Wednesday scouting for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, the Pacers' affiliate in the D-League. Cooper guided the T-Birds to the league championship last season but it remains to be seen if the Pacers will send any of their eligible players (those with less than 2 years of NBA service) his way. "I think it's going to develop into something like baseball has with their minor-league system," Cooper said of the D-League. "A lot of young men, once the season starts, they don't get the opportunity to play in game-time situations. All their playing comes in practice. If there's an opportunity to send a player down I think it's very beneficial."


HARRISON, EDWARDS STILL HURTING

Centers David Harrison and John Edwards remained on the sidelines Wednesday. Harrison sprained his left ankle in Tuesday morning's first practice and is listed as day-to-day. Edwards is out indefinitely with a sore back.