Al Harrington guaranteed he'll be on the court after All-Star break on Saturday after practice, but he questioned the Wizards' mental toughness after a shocking, yet all-too typical, loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers at Verizon Center the previous night.
As CSN Washington reported earlier in the week, Harrington took part in a 4-on-4 drill and was on fire. Harrington hasn't played since November because of problems with his right knee which required surgery the following month to remove loose particles.
"It felt good to know I still got game. I wanted to test it to see if I still had it," Harrington said after Saturday's practice session. "I was locked in. I had played (two days) before and I wasn't that good. I wasn't moving that well. I felt so much better that next day. I'm starting to feel healthy, starting to get a lot better. Now it's time to get myself in shape.
"I've had good days and bad days but for the last two weeks I've had all good days. ... I feel better now than I did in training camp which is kind of weird because I thought that was as good as I was going to feel ever again. But I feel so much better so I guess that surgery was much needed to get my knee to a good place."
The Wizards (24-25) have games vs. the Sacramento Kings at home Sunday, and they travel to play at the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday and Houston Rockets on Wednesday. Then comes the All-Star break, and players have to report to their teams Feb. 17 to prepare for the season's stretch run.
"I can guarantee I'm going to play sometime after All-Star break. That's for sure," said Harrington, who only has played in seven games in his first season in Washington and averages 7.9 points per game. "I feel like I can play offense tomorrow but the way the team has been playing defense and stuff like that I don't want to be the weak link out there. I got to catch up. ... That part will take a little bit of time. hopefully a week or two."
While the Wizards have shown the ability to beat elite teams and lock in defensively, the loss to the Cavs is a perfect of example of why they've got far to go. They could have a stranglehold on the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference if they'd beaten inferior teams. Instead, they keep losing to them. And at home, no less.
"Our weakest thing at this point is our mental toughness," Harrington said. "We lock in for the good teams and then we allow these teams that are sub-par and we just relax. We try to play in the last six minutes of the game and think we can turn it on but we're not the Miami Heat. We're not that good. We can be that good as far as closing teams out. We're not there yet."