Stephen Jackson’s trade demand was the big story coming out of the Protege Block Party on Friday. But we were also able to catch up with the Knicks’ Al Harrington. The 13-year vet out of St. Patrick’s High School in Elizabeth, NJ, is entering his first full season as a Knick. Harrington weighed in on the state of the Knicks as well as his mission to make quality and affordable shoes.
Dime: Tell the readers a little about Protege.
Al Harrington: Well the shoes are great. They’re shoes that will immediately impact the community. It will empower kids and allow them to be able to afford sneakers themselves and not need their parents to buy shoes for them. The days of the $200 shoes are pretty much over. I think it’s unfair because shoes are made at a price that is way, way lower than that. We wanted to be able to put out a shoe that is quality and is just as good as other shoes on the market that are $100 and $200. Kids can look good and with me, Stephen Jackson and Fat Joe wearing them – it’s giving the line a lot of credibility. Kids can wear them and feel empowered wearing them.
Dime: Do you have any input on the design?
AH: Yeah, yeah of course. We have great designers, but at the end of the day myself and Stephen, we get the final OK for the shoes we play with on the court. Then the lifestyle shoes and stuff like that, we’re not as hands on with that. But the shoe we wear on the court, we are definitely hands on.
Dime: This year is a contract year for you. How important is it for you to perform?
AH: It’s big for me but not only for a contract. Not only am I a player for the Knicks, I’m a Knicks fan. From day one, since I was little I was a fan because my mother was. So I just want us to do well man. I want us to find a way to make it back to the playoffs and that’s all I’m focusing on.
Dime: A lot of people look at guys like you and Larry Hughes as space fillers until 2010. Does that bother you?
AH: No I don’t look at it like that. My whole thing is that if our team wants to sign two max players, you still need a team you know what I’m saying? I know I’ll be a great fit no matter who they bring in because I’m a great basketball player. I can play the game in every aspect. Whatever coach needs me to do, I feel like I can do. So I’m going to be there, I’m not worried about it.
Dime: Do you think Nate Robinson and David Lee will be back?
AH: We need both of them back you know what I’m saying? Obviously they can’t get the years they want to get. But I feel if they come back and we have a great year, I think they’ll be taken care of. So we’ll see what happens.
Dime: What is your take on the two rookies Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas?
AH: I really don’t know that much about them. I played with the first time the other day at pickup at the practice facility. Douglas is very good young player with a lot of energy defensively and he can score the ball. Jordan Hill is a great athlete. He’s going to help block shots and clog up the middle for us. It’s going to take time with them, but I think they’re going to be good.
Dime: Are the Knicks going to make the playoffs?
AH: As of right now, I would say yes. I mean anything can happen. The way we play and the way that we score the basketball and looking at the guys we have now. If we can get some stops we could be a playoff team. I think we have to work on our defense and keep following coach’s philosophy on offense, I think we can be in the playoffs.