SALT LAKE CITY — Despite not scoring and playing less than a half due to an injury Tuesday night against Milwaukee, Utah point guard Devin Harris said he's getting more comfortable with the Jazz offense as he begins his second year with the team.
Harris came to Utah late last season via a trade with New Jersey in exchange for longtime Jazz point guard Deron Williams. He showed flashes the rest of the season and better things were expected of him this year.
After getting just 14 assists total in the first four Jazz games, while shooting 39.4 percent from the field, Harris looked much better in the two home games this week, before leaving Tuesday's game with a calf injury.
In the win over New Orleans Monday night, the former Wisconsin guard scored 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range and the go-ahead basket, while dishing out five assists.
Then, despite missing his only two shots in the first half against Milwaukee, he had his best passing night of the season, handing out six assists in just 17 minutes, tying his season high.
"The more time I spend with these guys on the court, the more comfortable I'll be," Harris said. "You see the progression of our offense and the ball's really moving now. The assist numbers are going up and that's going to continue to get better as the year goes along."
Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin has noticed an improvement in Harris' game as the year has progressed.
"He's done a better job of understanding how to push the ball down the floor early, reading his big guys and the guys running the wing," Corbin said. "He's getting it down early so we can get more time in our half-court set. Defensively, he's doing a better job of meeting the point guard early and antagonizing him before he gets into a sweet spot to make passes to his teammates."
As for that calf injury, Harris said it was feeling much better Wednesday morning at practice and that he'd play Friday.
"It feels better and I don't expect to miss any time," he said. "We've got good trainers here."
KISS 'EM BETTER: Harris isn't the only Jazz player hobbled by an injury.
Josh Howard left Tuesday's game after just four minutes with a quad injury and he is "day-to-day," according to the Jazz. Also, Al Jefferson has had problems with cramping and Paul Millsap is still not 100 percent with his banged-up knee.
Corbin said he hopes all the players will be healthy for Friday night's game against Memphis.
"We'll just have to kiss 'em and try to get them better," he said.
SIGNING DAY: When the Jazz players showed up for practice Wednesday, half of the gym was filled with rows and rows of basketballs for each player to sign.
Some of the rookies and younger players got it done early, while guys like Harris and Jefferson were slowly going up and down the rows, signing every ball just before practice.
According to Jazz director of community relations Patti Balli, there were 530 balls to be exact, along with various posters and books for Jazz players to sign. She said they are used by all the departments at the Jazz for charities and other various community functions and that Wednesday's signing day will last for the season.
"This is the fun stuff that people don't get to see," said Harris with a smile. "It's not that hard. One day isn't going to kill us. The hardest part is finding a place to sign on the ball."
Rookie Enes Kanter got his signing done early and said it wasn't that bad. He said he was able to get through all the racks in about a half-hour.
RARE PRACTICE: With the compacted season, the Jazz are happy to get any practice time possible.
"It's great," said Corbin before Wednesday's late-morning practice. "It's a chance for us to get back on the floor and review a little bit and have some dummy offense and dummy defense to give us a chance to get better."
Shooting has been a problem for the Jazz so far and Corbin feels extra rest and practice should help the team.
"Everybody's a little tired," he said. "We had been getting great shots in the previous games, but we just hadn't shot a great percentage. It's starting to show now, the guys are more confident and getting in better shape and they're starting to fall for us."
4 JAZZMEN ON BALLOT: Four Jazz players are featured on this year's NBA All-Star ballot, which was unveiled on Wednesday.
Harris, Millsap, Jefferson and second-year forward Derrick Favors are among the 60 Western Division players on the ballot. Harris was a 2009 NBA all-star selection, while the other three Jazz-men will be trying to make the team for the first time.
The All-Star game will be played Feb. 26 in Orlando and be televised on TNT. Fans can participate in the balloting by visiting www.nba.com, where various methods of voting are shown.
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