What happened to Devin Harris?

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There was a thought, however fleeting, that the Utah Jazz might be able to trouble the San Antonio Spurs with their massive front line, similar to what the Memphis Grizzlies did in the playoffs a year ago.

There was a time, also fleeting, when the name Devin Harris could cause equal concern in San Antonio.

As this series shifts to Utah, the Jazz find themselves grasping at straws for anything to help change the outlook of this series. If they’re to make even one game competitive it will not be on the backs of their large front line, but on the one who changed the very nature of a series six years ago.

Then with the Mavericks, a young Devin Harris was inserted into the starting lineup and proceeded to run circles around the Spurs while suffocating Tony Parker.

It was enough that when the Mavericks eventually traded Harris to the Nets for Jason Kidd, few were as relieved as Parker.

Harris arrived in New Jersey billed as a quicker, better defensive version of Tony Parker.

Now Harris finds himself down 0-2 to his one-time adversary, and his combined 12 points and three assists through two games seem like something Parker could knock out in his sleep; especially since Parker no longer appears to be losing any over this matchup.

Harris isn’t the first nightmare scenario Parker has overcome. Once bullied by Marbury, Parker eventually worked his way through that. And the hard fouls that the Lakers delivered in 2004? They now ring as empty threats from a hopeless team.

It speaks to the underrated toughness Parker possess, tempered by Popovich’s ire, that he has moved on past both. As to what it says about Harris, who should still be in his prime–that remains a mystery.

Injuries befuddled Harris in New Jersey, stalling a promising first season there. But he’s been relatively healthy in recent seasons and finished this one off on a promising stretch of games to help push Utah into the playoffs.

But unless the jokes about Jersey sucking the life out of everything are true, this matchup should not be so tilted.

After all, Parker and Harris enjoy similar builds and speed. Physically alike, the two represent very contrasting developmental paths.

Parker stripped his game bare, removing extraneous aspects of his game like a three-point shot or exaggerated dribble moves in favor of a repertoire that accentuated his natural gifts. Devin Harris, who once channeled his quickness so superbly on the defensive end, put time into his three-point shot and appears to have tried to accentuate his speed by simply trying to go faster.

Where Harris is able to channel speed, Parker is able to manipulate it. By changing up his speeds, directions, and angles, Parker is able to keep defensive players off balance.

Speed is a gift, but it’s not the end all be all in basketball. Like a Major League pitcher, even the mediocre hitters will eventually catch up to your 95 mph heat if you don’t vary your approach.

The Jazz, it appears, will opt to double down on what got them here. It would be beneficial for Harris to watch film of those old Mavericks games and do the same.

 

  • JJ

    Some really good points here. Especially about the importance of change of pace and understanding the proper angles to take to counteract a defender’s own momentum. Such growth from Tony Parker this year in so many areas that it can be forgotten, at least by non Spurs fans, that TP can still get by ANYONE in the league. His body control and lack of wasted movement have always been staples of his game, but now his floor awareness has matched his individual talent in a way that a lot of people are shocked by. There are faster people in this league but nobody that uses their pace quite like TP. Good analysis.

  • Nima K.

    Not related to this thread. But I thought this was pretty funny. Enjoy:

    https://p.twimg.com/ArqxWzFCEAEownw.jpg:large

  • DorieStreet

    From Wikipedia: “In order to reduce his riske of injury, Harris took part in a weight training program during the summer of 2010 at Nets’ head coach (and Harris’ former head coach in Dallas) Avery Johnson’s request. He managed to add 15 pounds of muscle and also worked on his defense with Tom Grover.”
    A narrative that states work Devin Harris has put in other in addtion to Jesse Blanchard’s account.
    How ironic that Harris was traded from one playoff contender to another–but the Nets failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 7 years after he was traded mid-season in 2007-08. 5 straight losing seasons (34 wins or lower in each one, under 4 coaches) may dulled his competitive drive. Or perhaps he wanted to stay with the franchise and help usher in the new era—the move to Brooklyn. Unless he steps up his game significantly in game 3 and 4, Harris might be in his fourth different NBA uniform come 2012-13.

  • Krista

    More proof of the value of a high basketball IQ.

    While the article is about Harris, I wanted to comment about the Spurs supposed struggles with big teams. Last year Tim was slowed by knee problems that clearly stemmed from his putting on weight in the off season. He lost that weight before this season to alleviate the stress put on his bum knee. Why do analysts not realize that with Tim hobbled almost ANY competent big would be hard for him? As the best defensive big last year, Tim couldn’t do as much. This year, not only is Tim healthy, but Tiago has improved by a mile and Diaw has been better than expected.

    The Grizzlies, like other big front lines, dominated us during the season last year, as well as in the playoffs. This year, not so much. Other than one bad game against the Lakers when no one could hit the side of a barn, proving many rebounding opportunities for Lakers, why does this critique follow the Spurs? (Like we’re still old and boring).

  • Tyler

    Great article.

    Touching on a point Jesse (and JJ) makes – TP’s change of speed is nearly unmatched right now. Outside of Chris Paul, few others possess as many gears.

    Also, I really hope SA Spurs fans start to appreciate TP like they have TD, Manu, DRob, Gervin, etc. SA has never really taken to TP for whatever reason (French maybe?? Maybe his good looks lead some to say he’s a prima donna??), but he’s put this team on his back this year. He deserves a ton of credit. Crazy to think many wanted to trade him…

  • KG

    It’s much easier to have high bball IQ when you have the Spurs team surround you, just sayin…

  • DorieStreet

    On an aside— Daniel Green got some votes to finished 9th in the league’s most improved player award. We all know his hard stats pale in comparision to the winner- Magic’s Ryan Anderson, and the runners-up –Bucks’ Ersan Ilyanova and Timberwolves’ Nikola Pevokic. But at least a few voters took note of a player going from playing in only 8 games last season to playing in all 66 games, and starting in 38 of them, for a squad that finished the season tied for the best record.

  • Krista

    You can’t teach high BB IQ to anyone. There has to be some intellect there to build on. Yes the Spurs teach, but they also draft/target those players that can learn.

  • Stijl

    It’s amazing to it’s fans (apparently common place for the Spurs organization) that year end and year out staff and players can improve upon strengths as well as weaknesses and remain competitive, improved and stalwart.

    Last year was marred by injuries at the most inoportune time going into the playoffs. This left the Spurs with unanswered questions of how they could operate as a team without the big 3. RJ could not be counted on as an answer. Parker was thrust into creator/administer/and option #1 for offense only to have an unknown commodity in Mike Conley outstage Parker in performance.

    It was a total commitment of redefining it’s directive, addressing it’s weaknesses, and morphing it’s strengths into better instruments of execution by the staff and players that has lead this team to this point this year. I think a lot of that improvement to both team and individual players had to do with the first round exit last season.

    That said, I can’t think of any team in NBA history that has ever done a better job of remaining competitive with an aging group as the Spurs have done. Devin Harris may appear to “play” old. And perhaps it’s just the environment in which he lives. However, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan have the accumulative hours which would explain away if they played old but managed to re-invent themselves and turn back time this season.

    It would be interesting to know what might happen to Devin Harris if he played on the Spurs to see if it is individual or team that propels youth into an aging player.

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  • Titletown99030507d

    Away from the NBA if anyone cares Ryan Richards playing for his newly Georgian team in his first playoff game there he registered 26min, 18pts, 3-5 2pts, 3-6 3pt, 3-6 FT, 10 reb, 2 assists. If he does really well here’s hoping will bring him to the D- League Toros this summer after their playoffs is over.

  • NYC

    Dallas Mavericks just got a(nother) taste of being swept out of round 1. How does it taste, Dallas? How does it taste?
    SUCK IT, DALLAS. Long and hard.

  • DorieStreet

    Owner Cuban sacrificed a legitimate effort (not resigning Chandler, Stephenson and Berea) to repeat trying to set up a superteam ala South Beach and Hollywood. (He is trying to get Dwight Howard and Deron Williams.) They were in doubt to make the playoffs had the Rockets and Suns not faded down the stretch.
    If the Spurs pull off getting this 5th title in June, there should be a lot of NBA players with various skills/tenure in the league that should be contacting their agents and say “Dude, get me to San Antonio!”

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  • James

    Did Devin Harris not have his best years in Jersey? Last I checked that’s where he developed into an allstar and averaged 21 points and 6 assists. When he left NJ is when he began to spin downhill.