Niagara Gazette

Sports

January 17, 2011

Paul Harris leaving D-League team to play in Philippines

NIAGARA FALLS — Paul Harris is going halfway around the world to get more playing time.

Unhappy coming off the bench for the NBA Development League’s Maine RedClaws, Harris has accepted an offer to join the Talk N Text Tropang Texters in the Philippine Basketball Association, the Niagara Falls native said Monday.

The Texters — taking advantage of a PBA rule that allows each team one American player who measures shorter than 6-foot-4 without shoes on — will provide Harris with a significantly higher salary than he can make in the D-League, a two-bedroom condo with a maid, a car with a driver and an extra plane ticket for his uncle to join him in a couple weeks.

But best of all, Harris said, “they want me to play 44 to 48 minutes a game.”

Harris averaged 33.6 minutes, 15.7 points and 9.6 rebounds over the first nine games of the D-League season, but since then he averaged 18.5 minutes, 7.4 points and 5.1 rebounds in a reserve role.

“I was playing a lot of minutes and I thought I was playing OK,” Harris said. “Coach (Austin Ainge) said I wasn’t playing any defense. That really hurt me. The next game I played like 15 minutes. I couldn’t believe it.”

Noticing that his minutes were dwindling, Harris’ agent, Leon Rose, approached him two weeks ago with the offer to play in the Philippines.

“My agent probably wouldn’t have suggested going overseas if I was playing more minutes,” Harris said.

Harris decided to wait until after last week’s D-League Showcase before deciding whether to take the offer. With scouts and front office representatives from all 30 NBA teams in attendance, Harris had  21 points, 11 rebounds and four steals in 31 minutes off the bench in Maine’s final game at the event in South Padre Island, Texas, but he didn’t get any indication that an NBA call-up was imminent, and when the Red Claws returned home to face Erie on Friday, Harris remained in a reserve role.

Harris, who spent three years at Syracuse before turning professional, passed on more lucrative overseas opportunities during the summer because he felt playing in the D-League would give him a better chance of breaking into the NBA. Before being drafted by the Red Claws in the first round in 2009, Harris was the last player cut from the Utah Jazz training camp roster.

“I’m in a different place and a different mindset now and starting to think for the future,” Harris said.

Harris will fly to the Philippines on Sunday after spending a few days back in Niagara Falls. He said he left Maine on good terms with RedClaws coaches and management, and was told he could return to the team later in the season if he desires. But his current intentions are to finish out the last four months of the season in the Philippines and get ready for the NBA Summer League in July.

“This is a good situation for me to make some money and provide for my family,” Harris said. “I think its a great opportunity.”

Contact reporter Jonah Bronstein at jonah.bronstein@niagara-gazette.com.

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