It’s safe to say the Dallas Mavericks have gotten a shot of adrenaline with the return of Devin Harris. He had his second straight game with at least 14 points and four assists. After totaling 11 points in his first three games of the season, Harris has totaled 28 points over his last two games. Harris is shooting .615 from the floor, .571 from long range over the last two games. Also, he’s gone a perfect 8-of-8 at the line over his last two contests.
“He’s been going better and better each game,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said after the 116-106 victory over Detroit. “He’s obviously worked extremely hard, he’s getting more rhythm and more feel, and shots are going in now.”
It was clear that Monta Ellis didn’t really have much in the tank against the Pistons. He scored 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting and also had a rough go at protecting the ball as he had eight turnovers. With that going against Dallas, Harris’ game was vital to their success.
“It was a Godsend to have a guy like Harris available,” Carlisle continued. “He’s an experienced NBA player who has really done everything.”
Godsend is a pretty strong choice of words, but it’s exactly what the Mavericks were hoping that Harris could bring to the table. They knew they were going to have issues with Jose Calderon and Ellis as their starting backcourt. That backcourt puts way too much pressure on Shawn Marion. Now, with Harris back, we’ve seen what he can bring to the table in terms of defense and as a spark on offense.
“He’s a game-changer for us on both ends of the floor,” said Dirk Nowitzki. “He’s one of our best perimeter defenders. He’s tough in there, he’s tough on the post, he takes charges for us. On offense, it’s just fun to see another guy with speed. He can get to the rim. He shot the ball well today. He makes good decisions with the ball.
“It’s great to have him back, that’s for sure.”
When Dallas has a night like the one against Detroit where Ellis just doesn’t have it going, Harris can step in. When they need Ellis’ dynamic skills but some security on defense, Calderon can sit and Harris can step in. We’ve already seen both instances in the five games that Harris has played.
“We knew he was going to be a big help for this team,” Calderon said of Harris. “He can do a lot of things for us. He can play D, he’s fast, he can shoot the ball and we can play with different rotations when he’s in the game. He’s been good so far and he’s getting better every day.”
Like Marion, Harris is becoming the team’s basketball spackle. If there’s a problem, throw the versatile guard out there to try to fix it. They need an additional threat of speed, another way to force teams to get in foul trouble, another player to help facilitate, be a calming influence on the floor, Harris can do all of those things and then some. Having a smaller version of Marion (in terms of versatility) would be huge for Dallas.
Harris helps Marion in terms of defense, but he also likely helps Vince Carter as it’s another weapon that teams have to guard against. Carter has averaged 16.0 points .521 shooting from the floor. Dallas’ bench continues to get stronger as pieces are added on. Shane Larkin’s days as a semi-consistent part of the rotation are probably done, but a bench of Harris, Carter, Crowder, Wright and Blair has the potential to be very potent. There are shortcomings within it, but all benches have their warts.
Either way, a healthy and dynamic Harris is a win-win for the team in terms of offense and defense.
More importantly, after 24 minutes of action, Harris said he didn’t have any pain in his toe. He’ll need to trust his foot as time goes on. Even with the results coming quicker than he expected, Harris knows that it’s still part of a process. It’s a process that will hopefully get him to a level where he feels he’s playing up to his potential.
“I’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I’m just building on each game, trying to get better,” Harris said. “I try not to have too high expectations, having that much time off. I know what I feel I can do. It’s what my body will allow me to do. The last two games have been good for me.”
They’ve been very good, to say the least. Ellis has to be in the top five in the league when it comes to most bang for the buck (outside of players on rookie-scale deals). That helps in the new CBA landscape teams have to work within. If Harris can deliver on this kind of scale, Dallas has another huge bargain on their hands. On the plus side, Harris already made his intentions clear that he wanted to come back to Dallas for a while and would do so at a discounted rate (originally three years, $9 million). Outside of another devastating injury, it’s hard to imagine that Harris won’t stick around past this season.
Health-permitting, Dallas has the potential to get a solid bump in productivity if Harris continues to fit into the system as he has as of late. That doesn’t make them a world beater, but it makes them better and that’s what this is all about.