DALLAS — Committed to returning to the Dallas Mavericks better next season after battling his way through a right great toe injury early in the 2016-17 campaign, 13-year veteran Devin Harris has been encouraged to see the team’s young contributors in the gym alongside him every day this offseason.
Dropping nine of their final 11 outings to close the season, the Mavericks finished the grueling 82-game schedule with a 33-49 record and on the outside looking into the playoffs. The Mavs also increased the minutes of their young players down the stretch with the postseason no longer in sight, opting to rest veterans to ensure that their first- and second-year players spent more time on the court. But after playing alongside the team’s young players in the Mavericks’ 100-93 season-finale win at Memphis on April 12, Harris says he’s been pleasantly surprised by their offseason training thus far this summer. And with a bevy of returning young players set to compete with the Mavs’ Las Vegas summer-league squad July 7-17, Harris believes fans will see the growth of each player immediately.
“It’s been good. … Working with the young guys that have been here, and I’ve spent a lot of time working with Wes (Matthews) as well,” Harris said while making an appearance last week at Mavs Basketball Academy’s overnight camp. “I think it’s been good. It’s been beneficial for (the young players). They’ve made generous strides over the course of the season, and I think they’re making strides this summer as well. And I think it’s only going to benefit them coming into training camp.”
The Mavericks finished the season with five first-year players seeing time on the court late in the schedule, featuring four undrafted rookies as well. The Mavs also ended the year with nine players on the roster 26 years old or under, forming the franchise’s emerging youth movement.
Ending the ’15-16 season with the second-oldest team in the league behind only San Antonio after sending out a lineup with an average age of 30 years old, Dallas then finished this season with an average of 27.3 years old. And despite missing out on the playoffs for just the second time in the last 17 seasons, Harris is confident the Mavericks can make another run at the postseason by continuing to foster their young talent going into next year.
“You know, we’ve been so good for so long. Obviously, this year kind of caught up with us, but I think we’re not that far off,” Harris admitted. “We still have veteran leadership, and we finally have some young guys to kind of build upon. Hopefully, they can come back and make that next jump with just a few pieces here and there — some more shooting, bigs that can be more aggressive on the rebounds. I think with rebounding we’ve had struggles the last couple of years, but I don’t think we’re that far off.”