At a Waldorf Astoria eatery Wednesday night, Knicks forward Al Harrington admits he is starving. But he will pass on the beer and the stuffed cold-cut sandwich. He orders a simple diet coke with tomato soup.
In two weeks, Harrington will pose shirtless for an underwear ad. But that is not the reason for the light meal, the two-a-day workouts in mid-July, and the runs on Coney Island's beach.
Harrington's first Knicks season was a hodgepodge. He was the team's leading scorer (20.7 points per game) but not their leading man. For three-quarters, the 6-foot-9 Elizabeth, N.J., native often was an unstoppable scoring force. When the fourth quarter hit, game on the line, Harrington often disappeared.
"That's why I'm training so hard, two-a-days in midsummer," Harrington told The Post. "I usually don't do that. Two weeks after the season, I hit Coney Island. This year, I want to be a better finisher."
It was the theme of last season. No finisher.
"I know that's all about endurance," Harrington said. "The end of the game, I didn't feel the same as the beginning of the game. To be more assertive, I have to be in the best shape of my career."
Harrington's value often gets lost in all the 2010 cap hype. Harrington, 29, emphatically said he will be the team's starting power forward.
"We haven't done anything this summer to change that," Harrington said.
When team president Donnie Walsh talks ad nauseum about cap space for 2010, Harrington said he believes the man that drafted him and signed him as a free agent is fitting him into the budget, even if coach Mike D'Antoni barely has uttered his name this summer.
"I'm living my dream here," Harrington said. "When it comes to what coaches say, I know my relationship with Donnie. From Day 1,
he told me he wants me to be around beyond 2010. I rest my laurels on that. He's given me every contract I've ever had in the NBA. I see it all the time. Two players can't win it all by themselves. I feel like I'm one of those players who can complement a great player."
To that end, Harrington said he believes LeBron James needs a power forward who can create his own shot -- a role Shaquille O'Neal likely will not fill, but a role Harrington can fill. And yet most fans don't expect Harrington to be around after his contract expires this season. He would be devastated if he wasn't. A Jerseyite to the bone, Harrington wears a "NJ" ballcap to dinner. He and his wife are expecting their first child, a daughter, in October. They don't want to move.
"At this point of my career, I'm where I want to be," Harrington said. "I've been a Knick fan when I was little. When I say it, I really mean it. I've always wanted to be a Knick, and I want to finish my career here."
Harrington relishes telling the story of his chance meeting with Walsh last August, while he still was with Golden State. He was driving on Central Park West, spotted Walsh, smoking a cigarette outside the Ritz, hanging with his two daughters.
Harrington pulled over, rushed out of the car, gave Walsh a hug.
"I said when you get a chance I want to be a Knick," Harrington recalled. "He said, 'Seriously.' I said, 'Serious.' I really want to play here. And he got around to making it happen."
Harrington was obtained Nov. 21 in the Jamal Crawford deal. His first Knicks season came with bumps -- 1,407 points overshadowed by those two unfortunate games against the Clippers. Two late technicals for hanging on the rim cost them two games.
Last week, a traffic officer issued him a parking ticket with the rejoinder: "Please don't hang on the rim next season."
Harrington only could laugh. Despite his scoring bursts, D'Antoni occasionally yanked him from the starting lineup and toyed with his minutes.
"It was an adjustment thing with coach. He wanted me to give a lot more than I was giving," Harrington said. During the exit interview, Harrington got the message. "Get my teammates more involved, get more assists," Harrington recalled. "My goal this year is to average 4-5 [assists]."
And the goal is the playoffs.
"I can guarantee we won't win [just] 32 games unless everyone gets hurt," Harrington said. "If we're healthy, we can get 40-plus. Me and Jared Jeffries went through 16 games we literally gave away. We win half of them, you're in the playoffs."
Sessions is seeking a maximum five-year, $35 million mid-level offer, and Wells hoped to get it by today from NY. The Knicks may be more inclined to go four years, and perhaps for a shade less than the $5.8 million yearly mid-level, giving them more cap relief in 2010.
The Bucks could match any offer but they seem set with rookie Brandon Jennings and Luke Ridnour as their point guards.
The Knicks' coaching staff is in love with Sessions' mentality and penetrating ability -- something Chris Duhon doesn't bring. But Sessions is a late second-round pick, has had only one full season of solid playing time and did not help the Bucks make the playoffs last season. Though he was in Skiles doghouse, who favored Luke Ridnour, which is perplexing in itself.
But at 23, Sessions would join a young nucleus, which includes Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Jordan Hill, that would be used to attract an elite free agent in 2010.
The D'Antonis know Sessions extremely well, as assistant Dan D'Antoni coached him in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Walsh also has spoken to Milwaukee, about a sign-and-trade.
my own thoughts: Ramon, during a stretch where he started... nearly averaged a triple double, and has certainly shown the flashes you look for in a young player. His career game of 42 points 15 assists and a handful of rebounds demonstrates the ability of this 23 yr old.