The final decision about Dirk Nowitzki’s future as an NBA player remains a mystery.
But there is one Maverick veteran who has already made up his mind regarding next season.
Devin Harris has no intentions of retiring.
When you’ve been in the NBA for 15 seasons, as Harris has, and you’ve seen your role change from young star to all-star to Maverick for the second time to Maverick for the third time, questions will persist, even if there is no basis for them.
He’s enjoying his 15th season, despite the number of losses the Mavericks have amassed. He overcame a hamstring problem early this season and has not had any serious physical problems since.
For those reasons, he’s ready for season No. 16, if the Mavericks will have him.
“I would like to come back,” Harris told mavs.com Thursday after a brisk workout at the Lympo practice facility. “And I want to give the Mavericks that opportunity. It makes more sense for me here than anywhere else. If that’s not an option, I’ll look at other places. And then winning becomes more of a priority.”
Asked if rumors of an impending retirement had any validity, Harris said:
“That’s not the case. I feel good. I’m in a controlled situation. I know I’m not going to play over a certain amount of minutes. I feel like I’m still playing good basketball.
“Now, if the phone doesn’t ring this summer, then that’s a different story. But as far as me going into the summer, I’m going into it (as a player).”
While the big to-do has been about Nowitzki’s future and whether or not his 21st season with the Mavericks will be his last, Harris has gone about his business and done so in strong style.
He has averaged 6.2 points, 1.7 assists and 1.6 rebounds in 15 minutes per game in 64 games. After missing 10 games with a hamstring issue early in the season, he has been healthy.
Harris has been with the Mavericks for three different stints. He arrived in a draft-night trade after being the fifth pick in the 2004 draft. He was the key component in the 2008 trade that brought Jason Kidd to the Mavericks and sent Harris to the then-New Jersey Nets.
After bouncing around to the Nets, Jazz and Hawks, he signed as a free agent with the Mavericks 2013. He was with the team until the trade deadline in 2018, when he was dealt to Denver.
He returned to the Mavericks last summer.
“Devin Harris is the epitome of a loyal soldier to a franchise,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “The way he navigated his way back to this franchise, two or three times, is really amazing. He sacrificed, certainly, some amount of money over a period of years to do it.
“We’ve been very lucky to have him here. He’s a terrific player. He has great experience. He’s a former all-star. He’s done a great job this year staying healthy. And if continues to feel good, he can continue to play, if that’s what he wants to do.”
Harris and J.J. Barea are the two guards who have been associated with the Mavericks from before the championship season of 2011. Barea was a member of that team.
Like Barea, Harris is an unrestricted free agent after this season. Betting people would bank on both players being back with the Mavericks next season.
That’s certainly Harris’ preference.
But that doesn’t mean that other options won’t avail themselves.
“Obviously winning, at this point in my career, always piques my interest,” Harris said. “Obviously, Dallas is always where my heart is, but it’s been a couple years since I’ve seen the playoffs. These last couple years have been tough around here. I’d like to see the turnaround here, when it finally does happen. But I’ll talk it over with the family. Because right now, missing quality time with the kids is starting to take its toll.”
And, of course, at some point, a different career path will be in store for Harris. Fans who have paid close attention have seen him chatting closely with Carlisle in timeouts or on the sidelines.
Coaching is for sure an option for him, someday.
“I think that part of it is in my future,” he said. “But with the situation that we’re in, it makes sense for the young guys to play and I just do my part and try to get those guys as much information and experience as I can. That comes naturally with the territory.”
One sure thing is that the Mavericks are always going to be an option for Harris. He has talked extensively with management and, as Mark Cuban has established, he takes good care of the people who have been good to the franchise.
“The questions I’ve gotten are: do you still want to play?” Harris said. “And my answer has always been yes.”