DALLAS — After offseason toe surgery derailed Devin Harris’ second stint with the Dallas Mavericks before it even began, both the organization and cat-quick guard head into the summer thinking about what might have been.
Forced to sit out 42 games due to his recovery from the surgery and setback during a rehab stint before making his season debut on Jan. 18, Harris quickly showed what the Mavericks were missing when he did finally step onto the hardwood. Now, after Harris averaged 7.9 points and 4.5 assists during the regular season in a reserve role, the Mavs will look to lock up the former All-Star as he hits the open market for a second straight offseason.
“Devin has just meant the world to this franchise,” president of basketball operations and GM Donnie Nelson said while referencing Harris’ time with the team from 2004 to 2008.
“It was an awkward situation this summer with his injury,” he added. “Our big goal for Devin was to get healthy and not to have that toe be an issue. We had minute restrictions, and that was all for the best interest of him medically. But we look forward to having Devin be a permanent fixture within the Mavericks organization. We hope that will be the case.”
Originally expected to sign a three-year deal last summer, the 31-year-old Harris settled for a one-year contract at the veteran’s minimum of $1.3 million. Now, with Harris averaging 11.4 points and 3.9 assists during the Mavericks’ epic first-round playoff series defeat in seven games to the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs, both the Mavs’ front office and the 10-year veteran hope to agree to a more long-term deal.
“Well, we were interest last summer (in signing Harris to a long-term deal),” Nelson explained, “and then, of course, the injury came up. We would love to have Devin. I think in the new game to have guys that can get in the paint and create is extremely important, especially given the dynamics of the Mavericks.”
“It was a pretty complex negotiation last time, and obviously I don’t really know where do we go,” Harris added. “My intent is to come back, but only time will tell whether that will happen or not. … I mean, [the toe surgery] weighed in a lot on my decision to come back the first time, so I guess my initial reaction to the season is to come back and play longer. But stranger things have happened.”
Playing the fewest minutes of his career since his rookie season at 20.5 an outing, Harris had to make an adjustment to coming off the bench, sharing a backcourt with starting point guard Jose Calderon and second-leading scorer Monta Ellis. But, with his health no longer in question, Harris expects to have a more expanded role should he return, looking to build on his performance in the playoffs.
“I mean, obviously, at some points I would like to play more,” Harris confessed after thriving for the Mavs off the bench this season, “but I understand that we have three guards that we have to rotate throughout. And it’s something that I’m not used to doing, so it’s going to take some time to think and how to work it the best I can. But I’m happy here, and I guess that I want to come back.
“The foot since the relapse back in January, I’ve had no problems whatsoever. So, that was a good sign of things to come. … I mean, it did take a while to get accustomed to, but we can talk about what-ifs all year. It’s kind of hard to say what it would have been like. I would have loved to play the whole year, but that wasn’t the case.”