- Marc Stein, ESPN Senior Writer
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Al Harrington, one of the NBA's top available free agents since negotiating his release from the Orlando Magic earlier this month, is leaning toward signing with the Washington Wizards, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Wizards, who have one guaranteed roster spot open, are looking to add some frontcourt scoring punch and have aggressively pursued Harrington since he cleared waivers Aug. 4.
Via Twitter, Harrington recently proclaimed himself to be "almost 110% back healthy" after a harrowing run of ill health stemming from a staph infection he contracted after surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee in April 2012.
Dealt from Denver to Orlando in August 2012 as part of the four-team Dwight Howard blockbuster deal, Harrington was limited to just 10 games with the Magic last season after ranking as one of the league's top sixth men with the Nuggets in 2011-12.
"I had to use a PICC line [used for intravenous therapy] to give myself medicine twice a day, and stuff like that," Harrington recently told USA Today Sports in an interview reflecting on the infection. "It was a tough time. Probably the first week of it was the toughest, just not knowing really how sick you are, and at that point you're not worried about your knee. You're worried about your life."
Since the regular season ended, Harrington has been working all summer in Las Vegas with noted NBA trainer Joe Abunassar at the Impact Academy and reportedly attracted interest from multiple teams -- including Chicago and the Los Angeles Clippers -- before zeroing in on Washington.
"It's been hard work," Harrington told USA Today. "I started on April 26. That's the day I got in the gym, and I've been in here ever since. I really had no time off, just been grinding and trying to lose the weight. I feel like the lighter I am, the more pressure I take off my knee, you know what I mean? So that was the focus behind losing the weight, and then just being strong.
"I've lost 27 pounds. I'm on my way down. I had to do it, and I'm focused. I've got a lot left in the tank. I'm only 33 years old, and people act like I'm 40. I'm just excited about getting back out there on the court and showing everybody. For me, this year I'm going to have a chip on my shoulder, so if I play like that I'm going to be tough to deal with."
Despite averaging 20.7 points as a starter for the New York Knicks five seasons ago, Harrington told the newspaper he wants to return to the super-sub role he had in Denver. In 2011-12, Harrington averaged 14.2 points and 27.5 minutes per game for the Nuggets to finish fourth in NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award voting.
The Wizards, meanwhile, covet scoring off the bench and another forward with range who can stretch the floor, which led them to Harrington. If Washington completes the signing as expected, Harrington would be its 15th guaranteed contract, putting the Wizards at the league maximum.
2hSteve Ilardi and Jeremias Engelmann