Devin Harris has been traded to the Denver Nuggets for a 2nd round pick. It isn’t an especially stunning or sexy move, and it won’t be a major topic of discussion on any nationally televised sports talk shows, but since Harris has been a bit of a personal favorite of mine for some time, I thought it important to talk a little bit about the 14-year veteran’s unusual relationship with the Dallas Mavericks.
Devin Harris joined the Dallas Mavericks back in 2004, which upon reflection might as well be the Cretacious Period. Acquired by way of a draft-night trade with Washington, Harris was the 5th overall pick and one of the headliners in a wild summer that saw Dallas almost totally remake their roster, jettisoning 7 rotation players – including Steve Nash. Harris was a part of the shift away from the all-offense Don Nelson days to a more balanced team that could defend and be physical under Avery Johnson.
Less than two years later, the Mavericks went to their first NBA Finals, and Harris had a key role in Dallas overcoming their greatest rival – the San Antonio Spurs – for the first time to get there. Harris played suffocating defense on Tony Parker, and was relentless attacking the basket at the other end.
Devin is still quite fleet even as he approaches age 35, but in his youth he was quite breathtaking in the open floor -- much in the way Dennis Smith Jr. is now.
Dallas didn’t end up winning that Finals, and after the collapse against Golden State in the ’07 playoffs, Harris was traded for Jason Kidd, who the team thought would put them over the top. Devin made an All-Star team in New Jersey, but injuries kept him from making the leap to super-star, and after making a few journeyman stops along the way, Harris came back to Dallas, six years later.
What I found remarkable was how it felt like he’d never left. Harris’ second stint in Big D was closing in on a half-decade.
I’ve truly enjoyed watching Devin Harris play basketball for the Mavericks. It will be sad not to see him out there anymore. There are three things I will always remember about him: (1) he’s been undervalued for most of his career because he’s quietly much more efficient than one would think with a cursory glance at his shooting percentages, (2) he always – and I mean always – knows when to take advantage of a two-for-one opportunity, and 3) that Barea-Harris backdoor pass I swear worked at least once a game like clockwork.
What’s more, Devin Harris is by every account a genuinely decent human being, who is active in the community, a true professional on and off the court, and has overcome a great personal tragedy this season with the death of his brother. How Harris feels in this moment I cannot say, but I admit I was a bit surprised that the Mavericks decided to move him, given everything that’s happened with his Dallas-based family.
Harris leaves the Mavs 10th in team history in games played, 8th in steals, 9th in three-pointers.
His goodbye to the media during practice (h/t Earl Sneed of Mavs.com):
I hope the chance to compete in a playoff run with Denver is something Harris wants and is ready for, because he certainly deserves it.