When AlHarrington, who spent his first six seasons with the Pacers, returned to theteam from Atlanta last summer in a sign-and-trade, a certain Conseco Fieldhousesecurity guard was wearing a huge smile. "When I left the first time, hesaid, 'Just wait. You're gonna be back,'" Harrington says of hisstepfather, Aaron Lawton, a member of the arena's staff. "I guess you couldsay he was pretty excited."
If things goaccording to plan, Harrington's return will mean more than a happy homecoming.The Pacers believe the 6'9" forward can replace the departed PejaStojakovic as a third scoring option alongside Jermaine O'Neal and StephenJackson. (Jackson was charged with felony criminal recklessness, battery anddisorderly conduct after firing five shots outside a strip club on Oct. 6. Histrial is scheduled to begin on Jan. 8.) With Harrington's ability to playinside and out, he figures to be the key to a new up-tempo attack; duringtraining camp, coach Rick Carlisle even used him at center. "I'm the BorisDiaw of the East," says Harrington, who signed a four-year, $36 milliondeal. "I'll play wherever Rick thinks is best."
When his stepsonwas traded to the Hawks two years ago, Lawton remained in the Indianapolis areawith Harrington's mother, Mona, and Harrington's siblings. He even stayed onthe job at Conseco. "They moved out [from their native New Jersey] to becloser to me and fell in love with the area," says Harrington. "My dadsays they're never going back."
They have noreason to now that Harrington is back in town.
Projected StartingLineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 41--41 (T6in East)
Points scored: 93.9 (23rd in NBA)
Points allowed: 92.0 (5th)
Coach: Rick Carlisle
(fourth season with the Pacers)
DARRELL ARMSTRONG *
Enemy Lines Anopposing team's scout sizes up the Pacers
They're going torun more, because that's the way they have to play with Jamaal Tinsley at thepoint. He can find people, he doesn't hesitate to throw it ahead on the break,and he's got a knack for finishing. But they've got to accept that he'll turnit over.... Will Rick Carlisle, a control-offense type of coach, be able tostay with the running game? In the past he has run the secondary break a lot,but during the course of the season he's reverted to the slower game.... Ireally like Marquis Daniels with this team because he can run, handle the balland play a couple of positions--though he's another guy who will force you tolive with his turnovers from time to time.... They brought back Al Harringtonas a low-post scorer, but they need to find a way to get Danny Granger on thefloor. He can handle both forward positions, and he does everything well.... Ifhealthy, Jermaine O'Neal is going to give them the same things as always, whichis pretty good. But his reputation has taken a hit because of injuries and hisinability to carry the team deep into the playoffs.
On April 27against the Nets, Jermaine O'Neal became the first player to score 35 points(37), pull down 15 rebounds (15) and shoot 80% from the field (12 of 15) in aplayoff game.