In the 2006 NBA playoffs, when Devin Harris broke down the door and crashed San Antonio’s party of Western Conference dominance, he brought to the game a certain unassuming simplicity. His style was a sharp contrast to his Spurs counterpart, Tony Parker. Though both relied primarily on speed, Parker’s speed was merely one characteristic of his flashy drives. When Parker slashed into the lane, hesitated just enough to force the defense into confronting him, then slashed again, this time to the bucket and for a lay-up, there was a notable panache. Almost as if a single one of Parker’s drives was a piece of music all its own, complete with a powerful intro, a melodic bridge, a sharp climax, and a smooth outtro. On the other side of the court, Harris was accomplishing the same type of basketball play–a drive to the bucket for a layup–without any of the trimmings of Parker’s brilliance. Harris’s drives were spartan, completely reliant on his lightning quick first step and his unrivaled speed to the hoop. It was always a straight line, from the top of the key–or from the mid-court line during fast breaks–straight to the rim. No detours, no hesitation, just unbridled speed. And it was refreshing. Here was a young guard, unafraid of the established status quo, doing the only thing he knew how: drive hard to the hoop. When the series was over and the Spurs were going home, Devin Harris was the fresh face of point guardry in Texas, and the perfect rival to the French Savant from San Antonio.
Six years later, Devin Harris is returning to Dallas. This fact alone is hardly noteworthy. He returned to his NBA roots a number of times during his career, both while on the Nets and more recently the Jazz. Yet this game will be different. This time it is noteworthy. For the first time since those All-Star days in Dallas, Devin Harris is Devin Harris again. In the Kings game, we saw the first flashes of the original speedster iteration of Harris. Against Houston, Devin Harris had officially returned. In a match-up against one of this generation’s rising guards Kyle Lowry, Harris was indisputably dominant, and in the uniquely Devin Harris way. The rejuvenation movement continued last night against Miami. He was pulling down rebounds and grabbing outlet passes as quickly as he could, turning up the court, and turning on the jets. Straight Line Harris was back. He saw his path to the basket, and whether he was initializing launch from Houston’s free throw line or the top of the key, his speed was irrepressible. He scored lay-up after lay-up. The simplest kind of two points with the simplest kind of tool: speed; and when the clock was winding down on what was sure to be another disappointing Jazz loss, Harris was there to rewrite the ending. There he was again, taking on the status quo, the established authority of the Miami Heat, and doing it with one hard drive to the basket.
So on the heels of this three-game renaissance, Devin Harris will enjoy a return to the same hardwood where it all began. Maybe the Dallas fans won’t recall enough sentiment, good or bad, for Harris to cheer or boo him during pregame introductions, but I remember the Devin Harris of the 06 playoffs, and from my comfortable couch a time zone away, I’m going to cheer that Devin Harris’s homecoming. Not a homecoming to Dallas, but a homecoming to what made him so great.