An extended visit to Vail, Colo., would sound heavenly to many people.
But not to Al Harrington.
His recent trip to the picturesque resort town intensified his desire to return to the basketball court.
For three weeks, Harrington rehabilitated his right knee at The Steadman Clinic, continuing a long, arduous road back from a staph infection in the joint. As his new Orlando Magic teammates often struggled, Harrington watched their games from start to finish at a restaurant in Vail Village.
"It's been tough," Harrington said. "I've been hurt before, but I've never been hurt in the beginning of a season. I've played in every home opener my whole career.
"The fact that I'm not playing yet is just frustrating for me, because I know how much I could help this team, and I just love to play the game of basketball. For me, this is the greatest job in the world. It's just eating me up that I can't go out there and compete with my teammates."
The 6-foot-9 power forward, now back in Central Florida, sat on the Magic bench during Orlando's 116-110 overtime loss Sunday night to the Boston Celtics.
Before that, Magic fans rarely saw him.
In mid-May, when he was still a member of the Denver Nuggets, he underwent seemingly routine arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his knee. At the time, he expected to be back on the court in six weeks.
But he felt sick two days after the surgery.
"I just knew something didn't feel right," Harrington said.
Doctors determined that he had developed a dangerous staph infection.
During the week that followed, he underwent three more surgeries. He had one more surgery in mid-July.
On Aug. 10, the Denver Nuggets traded him to the Magic in the four-team blockbuster that sent Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
He hasn't been able to practice yet with his new teammates.
"I know he wants to play," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said.
"From the day that I talked to him for the first time, I know that he was excited about coming here and being a part of what we're trying to do. I think that excitement is still there. It's just a matter of getting things right."
Harrington averaged 14.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game off the Nuggets' bench last season.
"He knows the goods and the bads in the NBA probably as well as any player I ever hung out with," Denver coach George Karl said. "[He's] a good locker-room guy. There was no question he was one of our top-five players last year."
The Magic could use his scoring punch now.
But at 32 years old and with two seasons remaining on his contract after this one, Harrington probably doesn't fit into the Magic's long-range rebuilding plans.
It wouldn't surprise anyone if the Magic make him available before the Feb. 21 NBA trade deadline. Still, Harrington almost certainly first would need to prove he's healthy before he generates significant interest.
During his rehab sessions, Harrington is focusing on strengthening the muscles around his knee, especially his quadriceps.
Harrington said he has a target return date in mind, but he declined to share it publicly.
"I have one in my head, but I can't tell the media," he said. "They don't want that around here, and I don't want to put that pressure on myself, anyway. Just in case I don't reach that mark, I'd let myself down, let the fans down. I'm just going to keep working.
"There's no fan, there's no person that wants me on the court more than I do."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times