Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — In the middle of the season when the shots weren't falling and he was struggling on the court, Devin Harris was the subject of some trade rumors. But not from the Utah Jazz.
"Not by us, not by us," Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin insisted Tuesday.
Right now, the Jazz couldn't be happier with Harris, who has been one of the team's most consistent players since the All-Star break. He has almost single-handedly willed the Jazz to a couple of victories, including Monday night's come-from-behind win over San Antonio.
In that game, he scored a game-high 25 points, including 12 in the fourth-quarter when the Jazz outscored the Spurs 27-16. That came on the heels of an 18-point game the night before and a 28-point game two days earlier against Golden State when he sank 8-of-13 shots, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range.
Harris is looking more like the player who made the NBA All-Star team three years ago, and he'll be a big key to Utah's hopes over the next four days when the Jazz play three important road games beginning tonight in Houston. The Jazz are missing five players due to injuries, including three guards, and will need Harris to keep up his hot play of late.
When asked why Harris has been playing better the past few weeks, the first word Corbin used was "speed."
"He's done a great job of pushing the ball down the floor," he said. "He uses his speed to get on top of the basket and break defenses down. But he can finish in the lane and we can put the ball in his hands in the pick and roll more and he attacks the basket or makes the proper passes to his teammates."
Besides his speed, Harris has been most noticeable in his ability to knock down long jumpers. In the last three games, Harris has sunk 11-of-22 3-pointers, bringing his 3-point percentage up to 35.1 on the season.
"His confidence in his jump shot has gotten a lot better, because he's making shots," Corbin said. "We've struggled all year but he's been making timely 3-pointers for us of late. He's worked his butt off all year to get to this point and now the work that he put in earlier is starting to pay off for him."
Since the All-Star break, Harris is averaging 13.2 points per game, above his career average of 13.0. Before the All-Star game, he averaged just 9.1 points per game. In fact, there was a stretch where he didn't even reach double figures in 11 of 17 games and went scoreless in one game and scored less than three points in three others.
Harris just shrugs when asked about his improved play, answering "not especially," when asked if there's anything different he's done lately. He did agree that using his speed has made a difference in his game and the Jazz's success.
"They've been encouraging me all year to push the ball and do what I do, and I've had a lot more opportunities lately," he said. "When we get stops and I'm able to push the ball in transition, we're a lot more effective. It's kind of hard to do that in a half-court setting. It's kind of predicated on our defense and how we're playing."
Corbin said he's believed in Harris all along and praises his attitude during the down times.
"He just kept working — he didn't complain about it or pout about it — he just kept working his way into getting better, getting more comfortable here and playing better for us," Corbin said. "We talked about it before the season, him getting back to where he's one of the best point guards in the league. He certainly has the speed and talent to do it. We believed in him and still believe in him."
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