by Conrad Brunner
May 20, 2003
By the Numbers: One of the most remarkable statistics of the season was that Harrington, coming off major knee surgery that cost him the final 37 games of the 2001-02 season, was the only player on the roster to appear in all 82 games. … Averaged 30.1 minutes, 12.2 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting .434 from the floor. … In 37 starts, averaged 13.7 points and 7.0 rebounds while the team went 25-12. … Fell one assist short of his first career triple-double in the regular-season finale. … Only player to reach 40 points, he established the career high against Atlanta on Dec. 23. … Third on the team in rebounding.
Playoffs: Endured a nightmarish postseason, averaging 17.2 minutes, 3.0 points and 3.7 rebounds. Went 7-of-33 from the field (.212). In his career, is 9-of-46 (.196) from the field in the postseason.
Plus-Minus: Ranked seventh on the team during the regular season at plus 149 (plus 1.8 per game). During the playoffs, ranked ninth at minus 19 (minus 3.2 per game).
Contract Status: Entering the second of a reported four-year, $24 million contract.
Analysis: Didn’t break through, but didn’t break down. All things considered, the latter development was the most significant. He wasn’t able to do any serious basketball conditioning during the offseason because he was busy rehabbing his knee. First basketball work came on the first day of training camp. Due to Reggie Miller’s ankle injury, was hurried back and opened the season as the starting small forward while Ron Artest filled in at shooting guard. The combination proved something of a revelation. With Harrington and Artest in the starting lineup, the Pacers went 18-4. Harrington’s .676 winning percentage as a starter (25-12) was the best on the team. A potentially devastating player on the post and in transition, he fell in love with his jump shot. Though it can be an effective complementary weapon, it’s not his strength. Also battled a tendency to try to force the action, offensively, rather than moving the ball and working the weak side. His defense also suffered in comparison to the 2001-02 season, when he was a legitimate stopper. As the season wore on, his body seemed to wear down and he struggled after the All-Star break, shooting .401 from the field. When the playoffs rolled around, he had nothing left.
Crystal Ball: With a full offseason of conditioning work, and the pledge to drop 10-15 pounds from his playing weight of 250 this season, Harrington should be a much better player next season. Whether that translates into stardom depends on the nature of his opportunity.
Final Grade: B-minus.