DALLAS — You can always go home.
In the case of Dallas Mavericks guard Devin Harris, that saying may ring especially true as the one-time All-Star returns to the city where he spent the first 3 ½ seasons of his career before being dealt away in the trade that brought back future Hall of Fame point guard Jason Kidd. Now, Harris will try to make himself at home for a second time, looking to shake off a toe injury that required surgery this offseason.
“It feels great. It feels like I’m home,” Harris said earlier this month while being reintroduced to the Dallas media and fans during the Mavericks’ press conference for their off-season signees.
“You know, I’m just excited to be back. … Unfortunately, I had to leave several years ago, but I always knew I wanted to come back at some point, so I’m just excited to be back and ready to contribute. … Obviously, I didn’t leave under my own terms, but I always wanted to come back to obviously contribute to a team that I gave so much to back earlier in my career. I’m just excited to be here and excited to get started.”
After the No. 5 pick in the 2004 draft had his rights sent from Washington to Dallas along with Jerry Stackhouse and Christian Laettner in exchange for Antawn Jamison, Harris went on to average 9.4 points, 3.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 251 appearances (123 starts) during his first stint with the Mavs. But, after being sent to New Jersey in the Kidd trade, it wasn’t until Harris was with the Nets that he actually elevated his game to an All-Star level, averaging 21.3 points and 6.9 assists during the ‘08-09 campaign.
The cat-quick guard will now try to put aside his off-season setback in time to make an immediate impact on the new-look Mavs team, likely seeing time at both the point and shooting guard positions in coach Rick Carlisle’s system after playing a similar role during his time with Utah and Atlanta.
“Devin Harris is a very good all-around player and a two-position player. He’s got an issue with his toe, and he had to have surgery, but in two or three months he’ll be getting back into the fold, and by December or January he’s going to be a multi-position player who’s going to bring a lot of speed to our team,” Carlisle explained.
“Honestly, my main focus right now is to get healthy,” Harris added. “I’m pretty sure I’ll fit in at some point — play some 1, play some 2. That’s never been a problem for me to get on the court, but I think my main focus is just to get healthy.”
However, the now 30-year-old Harris — who will sport No. 20 with teammate Brandan Wright already donning the No. 34 — is quick to remind people that his game has gradually changed since his first go-round in Big D, crediting the Mavericks’ heartbreak in the ’06 NBA Finals loss to Miami for the evolution. And although he still possesses the agility and acceleration that makes him one of the league’s fastest guards, the nine-year pro now says his game is more seasoned, using his mind over his 6-foot-3, 192-pound frame.
All of which he hopes to utilize to his benefit to help the Mavericks get back to the postseason, after the team saw its 12-year consecutive playoffs streak snapped following a 41-41 season.
“I’m a lot smarter. I’m still quick, I just use it in bursts, as opposed to all the time now,” Harris confessed. “Defensively, I feel like I’ve grown. But, like I said, I use my brains a lot more than I use my body.”
He added: “Looking at the team last year, I think our main goal is just get back to the playoffs. I think they missed (the postseason) for the first time in 12 or 13 years, so that’s our main goal. And then, when we get there, we have the talent to go deep. I think that’s our main focus.”