Niagara Gazette

December 11, 2009

BASKETBALL: Paul Harris' D-League debut delayed

By Jonah Bronstein

A television station in Portland, Maine filmed a piece a few weeks back with a reporter playing H.O.R.S.E against the local NBA Development League team’s inaugural draft pick.

The bit, titled “Paul Harris can’t wait to play,” aired Friday morning, while Harris was home in Niagara Falls, wearing a walking boot on his injured right ankle.

Harris said Friday he’s heading to Hartford, Conn., this weekend to continue rehabilitation, and is at least six weeks away from joining the Maine Red Claws on the court.

“I came home to tell my mom that I didn’t need surgery and to see my son,” Harris said.

Late last week, Harris was told that he had a torn ligament that needed season-ending surgery. Harris sought a second opinion from one of the Boston Celtics’ team physicians and was told his initial injury had worsened, but could heal on its own with proper care.

Harris first hurt his ankle Sept. 22 playing pickup games with members of the Utah Jazz in preparation for training camp. When Harris was waived by the Jazz on Oct. 22, he thought he was a couple weeks away from a return to action, and started going to Niagara University to work on his shooting.

“I didn’t know at the time, but that made it worse,” Harris said. “Now, all I can do is swim and get treatment until its 100 percent better.”

The Red Claws play tonight in Erie, Pa., the closest D-League city to Niagara Falls, as well as twice next week.

“I know a lot of people were planning to go to those games,” Harris said.

Harris was drafted No. 8 overall by the Red Claws, an expansion franchise in the NBDL, and was classified as an A player, entitling him to a salary of $25,500. However, Harris said he won’t be getting paid until he starts playing, although the Red Claws are providing lodging and covering his medical costs.

Once healthy, Harris could be called up to join any of the 30 NBA teams. The Red Claws are affiliated with the Boston Celtics and Charlotte Bobcats.

Considered an NBA prospect since he led Niagara Falls High School to a state championship and national prominence in 2005, Harris had a productive three-year career at Syracuse University, but didn’t fulfill the superstar hype that greeted him on campus. Still, he was a pivotal player on the Orange’s Sweet 16 squad last season, averaging 12 points and 8.1 rebounds.

In a move that surprised some, Harris left Syracuse with one year of eligibility to enter the NBA draft. After a series of strong workouts with various teams, Harris was considered a possible second-round pick, but did not hear his name called in the draft. He played with longtime teammate Jonny Flynn on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ summer league squad.

At 6-foot-4 with long arms, quick feet and a powerful body, Harris projects to be a defensive specialist at the professional level, playing either shooting guard or small forward.

According to NBA.com’s Prospect Watch blog, Harris’ “outstanding athletic ability should help make him a top player in the NBA D-League.”

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