Utah Jazz: No comparison, Devin Harris is his own-style point guard

Published: Sunday, Dec. 25 2011 11:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Deron Williams was not John Stockton.

The Utah Jazz knew he wasn't.

They didn't expect him to be like the Hall-of-Fame point guard.

Yet, Williams turned out to be a premier playmaker, who used his own skills and style to help the Jazz win a lot of games during his 5-1/2 years in Utah.

To that matter, Devin Harris is not D-Will. He isn't Stockton, either.

Guess what?

The Jazz are OK with that fact, too.

Coach Tyrone Corbin trusts the former All-Star to run his offense. General manager Kevin O'Connor believes in Harris' leadership potential. Fellow point guard Jamaal Tinsley knows from first-hand experience how tough of a competitor the 28-year-old can be.

From top to bottom, the Jazz are comfortable and confident in their quiet and quick quarterback even if he didn't win the Wasatch Front over last spring.

"Devin's a very talented player," new Utah assistant coach Sidney Lowe said.

Harris, Lowe insists, stands on his own merits — yes, even in Utah, where one legendary point guard has his own street, statue and stellar image, and the other departed superstar still has a stronghold on the hearts of some Jazz fans who wonder what management was thinking to ship him to New Jersey 10 months ago.

"Certainly we don't want to compare," Lowe, a former NBA point guard, said. "You don't want to try to compare him to John, obviously. Not many people can compare to John. But even D-Will is a great player, too.

"They're different — different styles of players," Lowe continued. "But I think in his own right Devin's going to do a great job here."

Right after entering his first game with the Jazz last February, Harris burst to the hoop with his blazing, world-record court quickness.

Since that favorable first impression in Indiana, however, Harris' time with the Jazz has experienced more sputtering than smooth speed.

The 6-foot-3 point guard had some sparkling moments in the ensuing months, making it easy to see why he was selected to be an Eastern Conference reserve for the 2009 All-Star Game.

But Utah's offense didn't click under his direction like it did with those other two guys who cast such a large shadow in this market for point guards. In a small sample size of 17 games, Harris only averaged 5.4 assists after being traded to the Jazz — or about half of what his famous predecessors dished out per game.

That was partially due to a nagging hamstring injury that plagued him at the end of the 2010-11 season, and also because he was so new to a team that had been jolted and jostled with the departures of longtime coach Jerry Sloan and their first-class point guard.

In a difficult situation, Harris stumbled at times in the big basketball shoes he was forced to fill.

Ask Utah players and coaches, and they'll tell you that's ancient history. The Jazz are convinced a healthy, full-speed Harris can equal a dangerous and productive Harris.

"I expect great things from him," Corbin said. "We talked about it at the end of last year. (We said), 'You're way better than what we demonstrated last year.'

"He's going to be a tremendous part of us advancing or getting better sooner. He's put in a lot of work this offseason to come back ready physically, and mentally. I think he's relaxed (after) getting traded."

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