It’s easy to see why fans like Manny Harris. If there’s one young Cavalier who’s already gone through the NBA wringer to get where he is, it’s been Cleveland’s slim No. 6.
Undrafted out of Michigan, Manny played his way onto the roster in last season’s Training Camp after an ankle injury kept him out of Summer League. As a rookie, he played in 54 games, starting 15, and lived through the longest losing streak in NBA history.
During the NBA lockout, Harris suffered a serious freezer burn on his right foot in a Cryon-X recuperation chamber at the Nike facility in Oregon. Mychel Thompson, took advantage of the opening and made the Cavaliers out of the abbreviated Training Camp; Manny was released.
On December 28, Manny was signed by the Cavs D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, where he began working his way back to the big leagues. He did so by winning NBDL Performer of the Week twice and averaging 41.0 ppg over his last two outings in central Stark County.
“(Canton) definitely helped me,” said Harris. “The D-League will make you appreciate this level a lot more – make you want to work harder on this level. Like I said, come before practice, stay after practice. The D-League is good for a lot of different reasons – including cleaning your game up to get back to this level. But, definitely, this is where you want to be: here in the NBA.”
Harris’ head coach agreed with Manny on the D-League as motivation.
“For the most part, (the D-League) helps those guys realize how great this (level) is,” added Coach Byron Scott. “Being in the D-League and having been up here in the NBA, most of those guys want to get back up here as fast as possible and they want to try and stay.
“I think Alonzo Gee is a terrific story. Jeremy Lin, when you take a look at him and some of the things he had to go through – Manny could be in that same situation. I think, most of those guys, when they come back here, they’re humble and they appreciate it a lot more. So they do everything they can to make sure that they stay up here.”
Raised in Detroit, Harris has nine brothers and sisters. His real name is “Corperryale” and his nickname “Manny” was given to him by his dad, based on the character that played Tony Montana’s best friend in the film “Scarface.”
Harris led the Big Ten in scoring as a sophomore and was All-Academic Big Ten in his final two seasons at Ann Arbor. In the first game of his final season at Michigan, Harris notched just the second triple-double in Wolverine history.
In his first year with the Wine and Gold, Harris got 20 DNP-CDs before making his first career start on December 29 against the Bobcats. Four games later he notched a double-double against the Warriors in Oakland and dropped 27 points on the Suns the next night.
Manny topped the 20-point plateau three more times last season and went on to start 15 games. But he hit the rookie wall late in the campaign and shot a combined .190 from the field over his last 11 contests.
He knew there were several facets of his game he needed to work on in the offseason.
“I just got myself better in the offseason with the things coach told me to work on – a lot of shots and the mid-range game and things like that.”
And while Manny was getting healthy and honing his craft in Canton, he was keeping a close eye on his mates from last season.
“As far as the team, I was able to watch every game that I could on TV because I was in Ohio, so it came on a lot. (The team) got a whole lot better and I think a lot of it has to do with everyone being comfortable with Coach Scott’s system. And on top of that, the defense just improved a whole lot. I think the team’s changed a lot since last year.”
Manny isn’t the only young Cavalier to be sent to Canton to sharpen their game this season. Christian Eyenga spent nine games with the Charge and Luke Harangody was with them for three.
In Harris’ 17-game stint, he averaged 21.4 ppg (nearly six more points per contest than current leader, Tyrell Biggs). He averaged just under eight boards and just over three assists per contest. And he learned a lot under first-year Charge coach, Alex Jensen.
“(Jensen)’s a good coach,” asserted Harris. “He preaches defense, like Coach Scott. Offensively, he lets you have your freedom. But just like Coach Scott, you have to build trust. He won’t let you do it if you can’t do it. But he’ll come here (to Cleveland Clinic Courts) to watch and he kind of translates it down there. He’s still learning but he’s a very good coach, I think.”
Manny performed well in Canton, but turned it up big before being recalled by the Cavs. In a February 16 matchup against Rio Grande, Michigan’s former Mr. Basketball went 17-for-30 from the floor – including 6-of-9 from long-distance – finishing with 46 points, nine boards and six assists. Two nights later, also against Rio Grande, he netted another 36 points, again with nine boards and six assists.
“The whole time I was trying to be solid for the most part,” smiled Harris. “But towards the end, I was like, ‘Alright, let me do just a little bit more’ and let them know that I’m ready to go. It worked out well and we got wins during that stretch – and that was the biggest thing.”
On Friday, Harris inked his second 10-day contract with the Cavaliers. And his head coach will try to get him some floor time in his second run. (Heading into Friday’s contest with Chicago, Manny had played a total of six seconds.)
“There are two things I know about Manny,” said Coach Scott. “He’s a heck of a defender and he’s a tough kid. And those are two things we can use.”
“Coming in right now, I think I can help the team by going hard in practice, first,” concluded the svelte sophomore from Motown. “Bringing in a whole lot of energy and effort and intensity and when I finally do get my chance, do the same thing out there. Pick people up, do a whole lot defensively and create offensively as far as running the lane hard. We’ve got good guards – Kyrie, Sess – that’ll find you. Obviously, I’m still on a ten-day contract, but if I stay longer, that’s how I think I can help the team.”
The season’s second-half is just getting started. And for Manny Harris, so is his second chance.