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

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

Harris was the first Jazz player to show up to the team's practice facility when the NBA finally unlocked its doors. It might not have been planned that way, but it still works as a symbolic arrival for Harris. He is committed to be at the front of the line, leading the Jazz into a bright future.

"You definitely want to take ownership in it," he said, "and that's something I look forward to doing."

Harris isn't waging a campaign to be named captain, but he knows being a point guard is synonymous to being a leader. It's part of the job. Heck, it is the job.

"As a point guard, that comes naturally with the territory, so yeah I feel like I need to be a leader," Harris said. "I haven't been here that long, but I've been here long enough to understand what needs to be done and how things are here."

Coaches laud him for taking youngsters under his wing. Harris even went out of his way to help NBA hopeful Scottie Reynolds try to get a grasp of the Jazz system after the since-waived Villanova product joined camp late.

Harris continues to focus on learning his teammates' strengths, where they like the ball delivered, where their favorite spots are on the floor, improving his efficiency with the flex offense and in pick-and-roll situations.

"The more practice time we get," he said, "the more chemistry we'll develop."

Tinsley remembers playing against Harris when Indiana and Dallas played. Harris' athleticism made him difficult to deal with on both ends of the floor, Tinsley recalled.

"He's a fast guard, gets up and down the court quick," he said. "He's just a hard-nosed playing guy. … He's doing a great job."

Neither Corbin nor Harris are concerned that the Jazz's starting point guard only tallied three assists combined in two preseason games. Harris is naturally more of a scoring guard than a traditional pass-first Utah point, but he and the Jazz believe they can find a happy medium where he does both.

"He's trying to make the right plays," Corbin said, "and that's the most important thing."

Lowe has reminded Harris that he can get his shots as a point guard. He's the one distributing the basketball, after all. But it's vital in Utah's offense that he gets everybody involved.

The former NBA head coach spent hours in the offseason after being hired by the Jazz breaking down tape and analyzing Harris' execution. Lowe credits him for making better decisions now and for more effectively running the offense. Communication has also increased.

The assistant emphasized how the coaching staff and management feel comfortable with the 28-year-old's ability to lead this revamped squad.

"That's an area where I think he's definitely improving is to create for other teammates," Lowe said. "I think he's getting better and better. I think watching the guys react to him, he's got control of 'em."

It's possible Harris' even-keeled ways might prove to provide a welcomed calming effect on the court for Utah.

Corbin declined to discuss whether Harris' steady demeanor — compared to Williams' occasional surliness — might help Jazz players play more relaxed.

But Harris' health, solid work ethic, willingness to learn and to teach, and an improved grasp on the offense are among the reasons Corbin is excited to see where the eight-year veteran with NBA Finals experience can help lead a Jazz team that needs a leader and identity.

"I think he's been great," Corbin said. "His leadership skills will continue to get better, but I think they've been better so far."

As for those Stockton and Williams comparisons?

Jazz fans might recall it took both of those terrific talents more than 17 games to leave a lasting impression in Utah.

Email: jody@desnews.com

twitter: DJJazzyJody

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