Take It Easy on the Harris Bashing


Take It Easy on the Harris Bashing

By Patrick Kinahan

The shouts have been heard loud and clear, echoing off the mountains that tower over the Wasatch Front.

Get rid of Devin Harris.

Judging by the communication we’ve received on our sports radio shows, it’s clear the sentiment among fans is to trade the Jazz starting point guard. Acquiring a better starting point guard is the preference, but at this point many would accept a box of day-old doughnuts or a coupon for a discounted car wash.

Hold on a minute.

Not forgetting that Harris has played well below his ability, it’s too early to jettison him. Let it play out.

Acquired in the blockbuster trade for Deron Williams, the well-traveled Harris hasn’t found his niche with the Jazz. Extenuating circumstances - injuries last season and this season’s lockout - curtailed any chance for a quick assimilation, forcing Harris into on-the-job training. Unfortunately, time is needed to learn his position.

But his track record shows the grace period is worth extending.

This is a player who averaged 21.3 points and 6.9 assists for New Jersey three years ago. He followed those numbers by putting up 16.9 points and 6.6 assists in 2009-10.

Even last season, in only 17 games, he averaged 15.8 points and 5.4 assists with the Jazz. The problem is his statistics this season – 8.1 points and 4.5 assists on 37 percent shooting – pale in comparison.

Here’s the two ways to look it: Either Harris is in a month-long slump, about to break out of it, or at some point over the summer his skills eroded at age 28.

“I don’t think he’s playing as well as he wants to play,” said Kevin O’Connor, senior vice president of basketball operations for the Jazz. “That’s something he’ll work through. Hopefully we can get him to play the way he’s capable of playing.”

At the least, fans are calling for coach Ty Corbin to bench Harris in favor of journeyman Earl Watson, who’s become a vocal leader and a crowd favorite. The problem exacerbated during the final minutes of the Jazz lost to Dallas, when Harris replaced the productive Watson. In 24 minutes Harris missed all seven of his shots, including a late three-point attempt that would have made the Ravens’ Billy Cundiff’s game-tying field goal miss against New England look good.

For his part, Harris is rolling with all the heat and trade rumors. The nine-year pro knows the drill, having played for 3 NBA teams.

“It's not something you can control," he said. "I've been to that point where you worry about it (and wonder), 'Is it what I'm doing?' You can't control it, so you can't worry about it."

In a smaller way, the Jazz already have played this game. Raja Bell’s so slow start apparently was a story for some.

Through the first seven games, the 35-year-old Bell had made a mere seven of 26 shots. Over the last eight games he has converted 27 of 48 shots.

“We rushed to judgment on that,” O’Connor said on demands to reduce Bell’s role.

That’s not to say the Jazz wouldn’t consider trading Harris. National NBA reporters have said that he is on the block.

Here’s where it gets tricky. The Jazz could find a taker quickly if they were intent on moving Harris.

But at what price? Since it’s unlikely that any 1 for 1 deal would improve the team, the Jazz have would to include another player to sweeten any package.

Which players would any team want? Putting on your general manager’s hat, would you be willing to part with promising young talent such Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors or Gordon Hayward for anything other than a guaranteed all-star point guard willing to sign a contract extension? For credibility sake, please say no.

At 10-5, the Jazz don’t need to make radical changes. While not every part is finely tuned, the machine is performing well enough.

It’s better to sit tight now than to give up young talent, especially young, big talent.