DALLAS — After seeing time on the court at three different positions for the Dallas Mavericks since returning for a second stint with the franchise prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign, veteran guard Devin Harris expects to once again be used in a multitude of ways by coach Rick Carlisle this upcoming season.
Harris, a 13-year veteran, overcame a right great toe sprain last season during the Mavericks’ final exhibition game against Denver on Oct. 21, avoiding surgery and an expected three-month layoff to average 6.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists an outing in 65 appearances. Upon his return Harris found himself in a crowded backcourt that featured veteran point guard J.J. Barea, swingman Wesley Matthews, 27-year-old sharpshooter Seth Curry and second-year standout Yogi Ferrell. The Dallas backcourt became even more crowded this offseason with the drafting of first-year floor general Dennis Smith Jr. But after ending last season on a high note with 15 points and eight assists while operating at point guard during the Mavs’ 100-93 win at Memphis on April 12, Harris believes his versatility will help him find a way onto the court during the ’17-18 campaign.
“You know, point-guard play is tremendous in this league,” Harris explained at the conclusion of last season. “I’ve played a little two, I’ve played a little one and I’ve played a little three. So, obviously, my position doesn’t change. But having a good point guard just really sets up your team to be successful.
“Since we got J.J., I haven’t spent a lot of time playing the point. Obviously, growing up that’s pretty much what I played throughout my NBA career. It felt good to get back out there and be aggressive, play with the young guys and just have fun, and I think that was the main point. (Playing point guard) is something I feel I still can continue to do. But with the team and the structure we have, two and three are more the positions I have to play. I would like to play (at point guard) a little bit more, but we’ll see what happens.”
Harris saw plenty of personal success at point guard earlier in his career, making his lone All-Star appearance while averaging 21.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 6.9 assists in 69 appearances for the New Jersey Nets during the ’08-09 season. However, after several nagging injuries in recent years, Harris has made a seamless move to playing off the ball while also accepting a reserve role with the Mavericks.
Harris was forced to miss the first 41 games of the ’13-14 season while recovering from surgery to repair the second toe on his left foot, returning that year to average 7.9 points and 4.5 assists in 40 games. He then bounced back to play in 76 games the following season while posting averages of 8.8 points, 1.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 22.2 minutes an outing, showing what he’s capable of when the cat-quick guard is 100 percent healthy. He was later forced to undergo surgeries on his left great toe and his left thumb, ending a ’15-16 campaign that saw him average 7.6 points, 1.8 assists and 20.0 minutes in 64 games. Still, after ending last season injury-free, Harris expects for his versatility to be on full display once again.
“Obviously, going into (the offseason) healthy helps,” Harris explained. “You know, the last month or two months I kind of showed when I’m healthy what I’m capable of doing. And at this point you’ve got to kind of let the chips fall where they may and see what happens.”