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Utah Jazz notes: Harris happy with new opportunity in Utah

Published October 29, 2013 1:08 pm

Jazz notes • Training camp invitee could see minutes against Thunder.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One year ago, Mike Harris was headed to China, where he would spent the season with the Jiangju Nangang Dragons.

On Wednesday night, Harris will be on the bench for the Utah Jazz when they open a new NBA season against Oklahoma City.

Harris was the longest shot to survive training camp and, given the Jazz's injury situation, he could see some playing time against Kevin Durant and the Thunder.

"It's a very tremendous opportunity," Harris said. "I'm very grateful to the coaches and [general manager] Dennis Lindsey. They let me know I was here because of my hard work and doing the things that are right."

Harris, 30, enjoyed a spectacular college career at Rice. In addition to China, he has played in the Ukraine, Germany and the NBA Development League since 2005-06.

Harris was one of the last cuts by the Minnesota Timberwolves before last season, so he headed back to China for the third time.

"It was great — China is fun," Harris said. "I like seeing new things, learning about the culture. It was exciting to go back and see all the fans."

The fact Harris' fiance and daughter accompanied him to China enhanced his season with the Dragons.

"As long as my family is around, it's O.K," he said. "... At the end of the day, you do this for your family and you do it because you love it."

The Jazz could have only 10 healthy players for the opener against Oklahoma City. Marvin Williams (Achilles), Brandon Rush (knee), Trey Burke (finger), Jeremy Evans (rotator cuff) and Andris Biedrins (ankle) are all injured.

The result? Harris will likely be a part of the rotation.

Who will start at the point Wednesday?

With Burke sidelined, coach Tyrone Corbin will start one of two veterans at point guard, John Lucas III or newly signed Jamaal Tinsley.

Before Tuesday morning's practice, Corbin did not tip his hand: "We'll look at whatever gives us the best chance."

Tinsley has practiced only three times since joining the Jazz last Saturday. Although he's in good shape, he's working himself back into high-altitude game shape.

Asked if Tinsley can give him "substantial minutes" against Oklahoma City, Corbin said, "We'll see. ... But he worked his butt off [Monday] and we expect him to be ready. He will play some, whether it's starting or coming off the bench."

Thunder are still elite

Oklahoma City won 60 games last season and finished as the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook was injured in the first round of the playoffs, however, and the Thunder were beaten in five games by Memphis in the conference semifinals.

Westbrook underwent surgery last spring. He had a second surgery on Oct 1 and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks of the new season.

Corbin still believes Oklahoma City "will be right there at the end" because "they are a still a good ballclub. ... With Westbrook out, Durant will increase his role as a ballhandler. The ball will be in his hands more."

luhm@sltrib.com