A year after undergoing complicated toe surgery that sidelined him for the first half of last season, Harris made sure he got the most out of his healthy summer.
If a group of Mavs was running the ramps in the parking garage across the street from the American Airlines Center, you could pretty much guarantee that the 31-year-old Harris would be there. Same goes for playing pickup games and working with new-age strength coach Jeremy Holsopple.
Harris, who signed a deal this summer worth as much as $16 million over four years after playing for the veteran’s minimum last season, feels as physically prepared entering his 11th NBA campaign as he’s ever been.
“It’s peace of mind, really,” Harris said. “This is the first summer that I’ve been completely healthy, that I’ve been able to just stay in one spot, not coming in and not knowing what to expect. Just to be able to come in and work hard day in and day out. … Going into the season full-strength rather than catch up to everybody else, I’m excited.”
That excitement is certainly shared by coach Rick Carlisle, who went so far as to call Harris “one of the top three or four players on our team.”
Harris played a key role for the Mavs as a reserve guard last season, averaging 7.9 points and 4.5 assists in 20.5 minutes per game and peaking during the playoffs (11.4 PPG, 3.9 APG, 25.1 minutes). The tentative plan is for Harris to come off the bench again, allowing him to serve as a spark-plug leader of the second unit and capitalize on his chemistry with high-flying backup big man Brandan Wright.
“I don’t expect my role to be any different, but it may call for it,” said Harris, who is slated to split time with fellow veteran point guards Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton. “I’m ready for anything at this point.”
Carlisle isn’t ready to commit to a certain rotation for the point guards, but he makes it clear that Harris will play a crucial role, noting that all the best players won’t start.
“I can promise you one thing: He’s up for anything if it’s winning,” Carlisle said. “That’s where he’s at with this whole thing. He took less money to come back here. He wanted to be in Dallas and he loves the city. He made such a full commitment this summer to his conditioning. He’s one of our leaders on this team.”