Opening Tip: How Harris can help the Mavs

The Mavericks aren’t expecting miracles from Devin Harris, as Mark Cuban put it.

They know the 30-year-old guard will need some time to play his way into shape and sharpen up his game after missing the first half of the season while rehabilitating from summer toe surgery. However, the Mavs have relatively high hopes for the impact Harris can make as the primary backup at both guard spots.

Is it asking too much for Harris to make the kind of contributions that he did in 2005-06?

You might remember Harris starting the majority of the Mavs’ playoff games while they made their first Finals appearance, but he came off the bench during the regular season, averaging 9.9 points and 3.2 assists in 22.8 minutes per game. Harris might not have the same quickness and explosiveness he did as a 22-year-old in his second NBA season, but that kind of production shouldn’t be considered unrealistic.

His role will be awfully similar. Harris, who has primarily been a starter since that season, is once again a change-of-pace point guard who will also see significant time at shooting guard. He’s immediately the Mavs’ best defensive guard, faint as that praise might be, and considers it his duty to push the pace, particularly when he’s paired with fellow speedsters Monta Ellis and Shane Larkin.

“I’m definitely going to try to speed the game up,” Harris said before his season debut Saturday night. “I think we’re one of the last teams in fast-break points. My goal is to try to impact that along with defensively being sound.”

The hope is that Harris’ presence allows Rick Carlisle to reduce Ellis’ heavy workload. Jose Calderon's minutes could also be cut, especially against elite offensive point guards.

Harris had a decent debut despite the Mavs’ lopsided loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, scoring six points and dishing out two assists while playing 17:24. It’ll probably take a couple of weeks for Carlisle to figure out exactly how Harris fits in the rotation, but he checked in for Calderon at the 3:22 mark of the first quarter and slid to shooting guard a couple of minutes later when Larkin came in for Ellis.

“He’s worked hard and he did well considering this is the first game, it’s been months and this is a major surgery,” Carlisle said. “It speaks to how hard he’s worked. This game gave us an opportunity to get him what would be considered at this extended minutes. His workouts have been intense, he’s done well with them and he hasn’t had any setbacks.

“He’s a guy that can help us for sure.”