Rick Carlisle didn’t mince words Friday when stating the importance of guard Devin Harris to the Dallas Mavericks’ franchise.
“He’s one of our top three or four players — no doubt about it,” the Mavericks coach said. “He’s been as committed as any player we’ve had this summer of just getting himself ready for this [training] camp and being one of the real leaders of this team.”
Harris missed the entire training camp and the first 41 games last season after undergoing foot surgery. When Harris finally returned last season he became such a vital part of the equation for the Mavericks that he eventually signed a four-year free-agent contract worth $16.5 million in July.
“He took less money to come back here — he wanted to be in Dallas,” Carlisle said. “He loves the city, he made such a full commitment this summer with his conditioning.
“He looks stronger — he was strong last year, but this year he’s a little bit bigger — you can tell he’s a little bit bigger. He’s been putting in all the conditioning work, all the stuff nobody likes to do like running up the ramp on the AudiPark [garage] structure next door.”
Now entering his 11th season, Harris, 31, said he entered this year’s training camp sporting unquestionable peace of mind.
“Coming in, this is the first summer that I’ve been completely healthy,” said Harris, one of the Mavericks’ top players off the bench last season. “This summer I’ve been able to just stay in one spot, know what system that I’m coming into, know what to expect and just be able to just come in and just work hard day in and day out.
“I don’t expect my role to be any different, but it may call for it. I’m pretty much ready for anything at this point.”
Carlisle said the players’ roles and his rotation haven’t been decided. But he’s not concerned with Harris’ stature on his team, particularly because of his leadership qualities and that he can handle both guard positions.
“I can promise you one thing,” Carlisle said. “He’s up for anything if it’s for winning — that’s where he’s at with this whole thing.
“He’s been one of the guys that’s been a real leader for our group. He’s a massively important guy to us.”
The Mavericks host their annual Fan Jam at 1 p.m. Saturday at American Airlines Center. And it will be followed at 2 p.m. by a team scrimmage.
The Fan Jam will consist of photo opportunities with the Mavs Dancers, Mavs Man, Champs and the ManiAACS, plus fans can receive 25 percent off merchandise in The Hangar.
The event is free and parking in the AudiPark Garage is $5.
Mini-, half- and full season ticket packages will also be available to purchase from 9 a.m.-noon.
As for as the scrimmage itself, Carlisle said: “We want to have a competitive game. We want to make it meaningful and we want it to be entertaining for our fans.”