Utah Jazz starting point guard Devin Harris was absent from Friday morning’s practice, as he was sent home with a stomach virus and deemed a gametime decision for Saturday’s matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
To be clear, though, Harris was far and away the dominant topic of conversation.
First, there was his dreadful performance against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday night, punctuated by his air ball down the stretch, which seemingly landed in the fifth row.
And then, on Friday morning, ESPN’s Marc Stein reported that Harris has been squarely on the trading block.
His teammates and coach Ty Corbin all came to his defense, saying that he was merely the victim of a bad game and that trade rumors have no impact.
“The locker room and the practice court, this is supposed to be a safe haven,” shooting guard Raja Bell said. “After you guys [the media] leave, no disrespect intended, we don’t want to deal with that B.S. anymore. We’re here to work and to get better. Devin’s a big part of what we do.”
What can’t be denied is that Earl Watson has consistently outplayed Harris. Watson has run the offense better than Harris and he’s facilitated the fast break better than Harris. And when Corbin inserted Harris back into the game down the stretch, the Jazz struggled to get a single good look at the basket for the remainder of the game.
The difference in Utah’s offense with the two point guards has been noticeable. When asked, Corbin said that he liked Watson playing with the second-unit because of his leadership of young players like Derrick Favors and Alec Burks.
But while he endorsed Harris as his starter, he conceded that “anything” could happen down the line in terms of playing time between the two.
“Our offense in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t just on Devin,” Corbin said. “I think the whole offense got stagnant. It’s on all of us, not just Devin. We weren’t cutting as well, we didn’t screen as well.”
Small forward Josh Howard practiced on Friday morning on a limited basis. While he’s listed as day-to-day with a strained quad muscle, he hinted that he wouldn’t be available against the Timberwolves.
“It’s about trying to get better,” Howard said. “I want to make sure that everything’s 100 percent.”
Praising the opposition
With the Ricky Rubio show coming into town, much of Friday’s practice talk centered around the rookie point guard. Since coming into the league, he’s more than lived up to the hype. The Jazz are impressed, just like everyone else.
“He’s bigger than I thought, and he’s a great passer,” Corbin said. “He really looks to get everyone involved. He’s somebody that we have to pay attention to.”