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Devin Harris' description of the Jazz was a compliment to his new team on arrival, but that label now serves only to mock what they became by the end of last season.
A team of relevance? Not exactly except maybe in comparison to the New Jersey Nets, Harris' former team.
So as the point guard performs in his first training camp with the Jazz, the characterization is subject to discussion: Is this team relevant, right here and now?
Only if Harris makes it so, by blending well into the Jazz's offensive system and approaching his All-Star level of 2009 in New Jersey.
There's so much hope for the February trade of Deron Williams to ultimately help the Jazz, so much anticipation for the growth of forward Derrick Favors and rookie center Enes Kanter (plus another first-round pick to come), that the other key element of the deal almost becomes overlooked. That's Harris.
Only if he becomes a consistent, dependable point guard this season will this trade benefit the Jazz right away. He's not a throw-in, he's a linchpin of the deal.
Comparing the package the Jazz received for Williams with what New Orleans would have taken for Chris Paul in the proposed three-team trade that NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed drives home the point that the Jazz need to maximize everything they got from New Jersey.
The Hornets were ready to accept forward Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers, plus guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, forward Luis Scola from Houston and a first-round pick. The Los Angeles Clippers' subsequent offer for Paul also is loaded with talent and value.
Favors' potential gives the Jazz a chance to trump those packages. Yet in terms of the immediate future, Harris is the player who can make the Williams trade worthwhile. Here's the qualifier: Harris is more of a scorer than a passer, which raises the issue of how well he fits into the Jazz's scheme.
Coach Tyrone Corbin believes Harris is a good match. "He's a little bit more comfortable with what we're trying to do here, and his speed is starting to show," Corbin said Monday. "A guy that good will figure out how to [score], but also how to make his team effective."
The Jazz went 8-16 in 24 games with Harris, who missed seven of those games with injuries. Harris said he "learned a lot" in those seven weeks and is eager to "get a better understanding of how to run the flex offense" in the team's shortened preseason.
He's familiar with the scheme, having run a version of it at the University of Wisconsin. Now, he needs to become immersed in the "way they run it and what they're looking for," he said. "Obviously, I'm trying to find those ways, how to get easy baskets."
Jazz followers are eager for all of this to work. The kid who last season wore his Williams jersey with "Harris" taped over the name on the back and the guy who stopped his car and jumped out to greet Harris at a shopping mall on the new guy's first day in town still serve as symbols of a fan base that's ready to move on from the D-Will days.
Remembering his introductory news conference, I asked Harris if "a team of relevance" still applies to the Jazz.
"I do believe so, yeah," he said, "coming from the team I came from. Obviously, they're making some changes. But this is a team that makes the playoffs expects to make the playoffs every year."
Just not last season, while their prospects for this season remain questionable. The Jazz's potential upgrade to relevance is in Harris' hands.
Age • 28
High school • Wauwatosa (Wis.) East.
College • Wisconsin.
NBA career • Dallas (2004-08), New Jersey (2008-11), Jazz (February 2011-present).
Career highlights • Averaged 7.3 points in 2006 NBA Finals, as Dallas lost to Miami in six games; scored six points in 2009 NBA All-Star Game.
By comparison: Harris and Williams
Statistics for point guards Devin Harris of the Jazz and Deron Williams of New Jersey, after they joined new teams in February:
Player G FG Pts. Ast.
Harris 17 .413 15.8 5.4
Williams 12 .349 15.0 12.8