Devin Harris is having a fantastic postseason.
Coming off the bench for Rick Carlisle as Dallas' third guard, Devin has scored at least 18 points and dished out five assists in both games. After struggling to find his jump shot toward the end of the regular season, Harris has caught fire early in the postseason, and his strong play has given Dallas yet another pick and roll weapon against the Spurs.
More recent converts to Maverick fandom may not appreciate how familiar this all is.
Way back in the year 2000 (and six), a precocious 23-year old Harris was inserted into the starting lineup by then-head coach Avery Johnson in game two of the Conference Semifinals against the defending NBA champions, the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs had taken game one, and Johnson needed to do something to shake things up.
Harris was in just his second season after being taken fifth overall in 2004. After being brought along fairly slowly for such a high pick, Harris was given a chance to shine, and he did, scoring 20 points and playing superb defense against Tony Parker. The Mavericks went on to beat the Spurs 113-91 (eerily close to the game two score from Wednesday), and eventually won the series, en route to an NBA finals appearance.
If the Spurs appear intimidating now, let's remember just how unbeatable they seemed back then, when Dallas had been trounced by San Antonio in the two teams' previous playoff match-ups. In many ways those Dallas teams were rewriting their own destinies, as the Mavericks went from a young, exciting, up and coming franchise to battle-tested legitimate contender. It would have been difficult to believe Dallas could have beaten a now legendary group like the Spurs, until they did just that.
Now, appropriately, it seems Harris has evolved in a way fairly similar to the Mavericks as a whole. The 31-year old guard is no longer the wide-eyed youngster, but rather a seasoned veteran, and the Mavericks are no longer the plucky group of upstarts but an experienced (read: old) bunch of former All-Stars and future Hall-of-Famers (or at least one) fighting to keep their title window open.
In a piece at ESPN Dallas on Friday, Harris talks about how his journey back to Dallas has been all about getting another shot at the playoffs, saying "It’s why I wanted to come back, to be in this type of situation and play in these type of games and be in this type of series. It’s perfect fit for me."
After being shipped away to New Jersey in one of the biggest and most controversial trades in franchise history, these playoffs are turning out to be a thoroughly satisfying turn for both Harris and the Mavericks, as Devin has been arguably the league's best bargain, with a contract at a little over $1 million.
Interestingly enough, some may remember that this reunion nearly happened much sooner. The Mavericks were reportedly very close to acquiring Harris near the trade deadline in the '10-'11 season. I imagine Harris wishes such a trade had been consummated, as the Mavericks raised the Larry O'Brien trophy less than four months later.
Harris may be lovingly referred to as the once and future Maverick, but in seriousness his future with the team is uncertain. Devin is on a one year deal, and will likely be due a significant raise after his performance this season. I suspect he may stick around, but if I'm wrong, and this is his last hurrah, I implore you all to enjoy the final chapter of one of my all-time favorite Mavericks.