Utah Jazz: Team defends Harris amid trade rumor speculation

Published: Friday, Jan. 20 2012 1:00 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Devin Harris was sent home from practice Friday morning with the stomach flu.

Because of the ailment, the Utah Jazz point guard avoided answering questions about rumors regarding him being on the trading block.

Given ample opportunity to assess Harris' season and the former All-Star's struggles, his coach and teammates acted like most people would probably hope their close ones would in a similar situation.

The Jazz family — as center Al Jefferson called it — defended Harris to the hilt.

"He's fighting his way through it — some good games, some not-so-good games," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. "Like everybody, you're going to go through some ups and downs in this league, and he has to continue to work."

Corbin continues to express his confidence in Harris.

The second-year coach likes that he's been pushing the ball more lately, but wants his starter to be "more comfortable" and build on what he's learned and done. He admitted the Jazz offense became "stagnant" in the final three minutes of Utah's 94-91 loss to Dallas on Thursday after Harris was reinserted for Watson, but Corbin blamed the five guys on the court — not just the point guard.

And nobody was thrilled to deal with trade rumor talk.

"The locker room and the practice court, this is supposed to be a safe haven," Jazz shooting guard Raja Bell said. "After you (media) guys leave, no disrespect intended, we don't want to deal with that BS anymore. We're here to work. We're here to get better. Dev's a big part of what we do."

But there's no question Harris has struggled off and on this season.

And he did so on a big stage Thursday night.

During the TNT-televised game, Harris went 0-for-7 and scored one point with two assists in the Jazz's 94-91 loss to his old team, Dallas.

Harris' airball 3-point attempt in the waning moments could've trimmed a Dallas lead to one with about 20 seconds left, but it missed so badly it looked like he'd hucked up a medicine ball.

Being sick wasn't used as an excuse, but that could explain away this particular rough outing.

Still, Harris has shot 35 percent on the season — and 31.8 percent from 3-point range. Known as a shoot-first point guard, Harris is only averaging 8.1 points in 25-1/2 minutes.

"We play a lot of games, you're going to have a lot of bad ones. Unfortunately, he had one (Thursday) night," Jefferson said. "Devin is a professional. He's been around a long time. He's a veteran. He knows games like that happen. I'm pretty sure he's going to bounce back and be ready to go (tonight)."

Technically, Harris will be a game-time decision for the match-up with Minnesota and vibrant Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio.

The Jazz, off to a surprising 9-5 start with Harris in the starting lineup, only hope the eight-year pro bounces back upon his return.

The 28-year-old has only averaged 4.6 assists — second to reserve Earl Watson 's 4.7 — and the Jazz offense hasn't always been smooth or efficient with him at the helm.

Understandably, that was the case at the end of last season, but it's continued through the beginning of the 2011-12 campaign. He's played well in stints — including stellar 19-point games vs. Philly and New Orleans and solid outings against the Clippers (13 points) and Denver (10 points, seven assists).

But Harris has become a lightning rod for fan derision.

He's dishing out less than half as many assists as Jazzland is used to seeing from premier playmakers John Stockton and Deron Williams.

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