To borrow from Howard Cosell, Al Harrington was asked to tell it like it is.
“I think they’re overrated,’’ Harrington said of the Miami Heat. “Man, I don’t like the Heat.’’
The Orlando Magic forward then quickly stopped.
“I’m joking,’’ he said with a laugh. “That would have been bulletin-board material. I would have been all over the talk shows.’’’
Anybody these days claiming the Heat are overrated is either Jason Terry or foolish, which actually is the same thing.
Harrington loves the Heat. But he does see the San Antonio Spurs as a potential threat should the teams meet in the NBA Finals.
“I think the Spurs just because, No. 1, they probably have the best coach in the NBA,’’ said Harrington, referring to Gregg Popovich. “They’ve just got experience, veteran guys. They have a couple of guys they can kind of throw at LeBron (James) a little bit. But I don’t think Oklahoma City has one guy who can (do much to slow James).’’
If you like Harrington’s take, turn on the TV in a few years and you might get more of it. Harrington, 33, wants to be an NBA analyst whenever his playing days end.
Harrington is very serious about the pursuit. He will enroll this July in Sportscaster U, a four-day broadcasting program put together at Syracuse University in conjunction with the NBA Players Association. For about $6,000, Harrington will learn different facets of sports broadcasting and will have the chance to meet with television executives.
“I realize I’m starting to get close to the end of my career,’’ said Harrington, a 15-year veteran. “(Broadcasting) is something I definitely want to do. I just think with my experience, just being around, I kind of get it.
“I’m a big basketball fan. In the playoffs as soon as my team’s season is over, I don’t miss a game. I sit and watch every playoff game and watch NBA TV with all the TVs going. I just love the game. I kind of watch people’s tendencies and stuff like that. I just feel that if I got an opportunity, I would do a good job.’’
So why does Harrington really think he can make it?
“Just because I’m always honest and tell the truth at all times,’’ he said. “I think I’ll be able to say some things that most people won’t say because I think politics is prevalent in everything in our lives, so I think I would be the one guy who would not be affected by politics.’’
Asked to say something others won’t, Harrington noted he’s still under contract. So one might have to wait a while on that since Harrington’s deal has two years left after this one.
Told Harrington is promising to be quite candid one day as a broadcaster, longtime Indiana Pacers television analyst Quinn Buckner laughed and said, “We’ll see. It’s easier to say than to do.’’
Nevertheless, Buckner likes Harrington’s announcing prospects. Buckner is a former NBA player and knows Harrington well from when the forward played with the Pacers from 1998-2004 and in 2006-07.
“I think he’ll do fine,’’ Buckner said. “He’s a smart enough guy and he speaks with enough (conviction) that he’ll be a good broadcaster.’’
During his NBA career, Harrington has gained a reputation for having the gift of gab. He regularly holds court with the media and is known for jabbering plenty on and off the hardwood.
“It’s very easy to ask him a question and listen for about 10 minutes,’’ said Denver Nuggets coach George Karl, a former ESPN analyst who coached Harrington from 2010-12. “He’s probably a writer’s dream… I think he would be a good selection (as a broadcaster). He knows what’s going on in the league…. I just hope he doesn’t turn into Charles Barkley.’’
The guy Harrington wants to emulate actually is ESPN’s Jalen Rose. The two were Indiana teammates from 1998-2002, including going to the NBA Finals in 2000.
“I think he does an unbelievable job,’’ Harrington said. “I think he does a great job doing his homework. He always knows what he’s talking about. You really respect somebody that takes their job that serious.’’
As for when Harrington might get behind a microphone, that remains to be seen. He says he wants to play another five years, although that seems unlikely.
After missing the first four months of this season due to knee trouble, he’s averaged just 5.1 points in 10 games. The Magic, wanting to look at young players, aren’t even using him now and it’s not out of the question this summer they could let go of Harrington, who has only half of the $14.55 million left on his contract guaranteed.
If that happens, we might find out sooner than expected if Harrington really will tell it like it is.