Nuggets plan on using Gary Harris at point guard in summer finale

Move gives rookie shooting guard opportunity to show playmaking skills
by Aaron Lopez

In his first three appearances at the Samsung NBA Summer League, Denver Nuggets rookie Gary Harris had a total of three assists.

In Game 4, he recorded four.

There could be more where that came from.

Expect to see Harris play more minutes at point guard Friday when the Nuggets conclude their summer league schedule against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

“We want to see him handle the basketball, make plays and run a team,” Nuggets assistant coach Noel Gillespie said Thursday. “At Michigan State, he was a spot-up shooter who came off screens. For us in the regular season, we know Gary won’t be a primary ballhandler, but at this stage it doesn’t hurt.”

Gillespie is sharing coaching duties with fellow assistant Patrick Mutombo. With no practice or game scheduled Thursday, the two spent some time going over different lineup combinations and points of emphasis.

“We’ve been tinkering with lineups,” Gillespie said.

“We told the guys to stay ready and stay prepared. When your number’s called, be ready to contribute.”

The Nuggets likely will be without starting forward Quincy Miller, who sprained his ankle in the second quarter of Wednesday’s loss to the NBA D-League Select team.

“I didn’t see the replay,” Gillespie said. “Everyone said it was pretty ugly. He went back on the bus with us and was icing it. He seemed in good spirits.”

Miller, bidding to be part of Denver’s roster and rotation in 2014-15, scored 49 points through the first two summer league games but struggled with his shot in Game 3 and then played only nine minutes before being injured Wednesday.

Harris and Erick Green led the way against the D-League Select team. Green scored 17 points and is now averaging 15.8 points on .500 shooting. Harris added 15 points and entered Thursday tied for 11th in scoring at 18.8 points per game.

The Nuggets aren’t concerned as much with Harris’ scoring ability as his overall game.

“Gary did a good job coming off screens and finding the open man,” Gillespie said. “That’s one of the things we look at, not how many points did he score.”

Gillespie also praised Harris’ contributions on defense.

“Defensively, I thought Gary was really good all summer league. He’s sticking to the game plan and guarding the top scorers on the other team.

“The biggest thing for him is going to be knowing personnel. When rookies get in the NBA, you’re going to be guarding different guys. That speed, athleticism and strength get turned up a notch. That’s going to be a good test for him. He won’t have to do that all the time, but he’s up to the challenge.”