It’s hard to argue with the numbers.
The Hawks were more successful with Devin Harris on the floor. Consider the following statistics:
- They were 35-23 this season when the guard played.
- They were 24-10 when he started.
- They were 21-6 when he played more than 25 minutes.
- They were 20-8 when he scored in double figures.
However, Harris has battled a toe injury on his left foot for much of the season. The gruesome-looking digit cost him 22 games this season. Along the way there were numerous methods of orthotics, pads, wraps, tape and postgame treatment — almost anything — used to help get Harris on the court. Finally it was discovered that injections of platelet-rich plasma enabled the former All-Star to return to the form the Hawks envisioned when they traded for him in offseason.
Feeling the effects of a recent second injection, Harris is back to the speedy, quick-cutting, hard driving, outside threat of a player who could be the X-factor in the Hawks’ first-round playoff matchup against the Pacers, which begins Sunday.
“I’ve never had any problems with my feet before,” Harris said. “Normally I know how to deal with certain types of things that I’ve had before. If it was an ankle, OK. Never the stuff I’ve dealt with this year.
“It’s been very frustrating. Obviously, before the All-Star break I was very limited in what I could do. I pretty much became a spot-up shooter on the perimeter. I wasn’t able to defend like I wanted to defend. We finally found something that helped, and I was able to get back to be the player that I normally am.”
Harris suffered the toe injury in December and missed 11 consecutive games. He returned to the lineup, but missed four more games in January and February, scoring in double figures only twice. During the All-Star break he went to see a foot specialist in New York, who gave him the first injection. It was the same procedure Harris had in training camp for a knee injury.
It worked — for a while.
Harris began to have trouble with the toe again in March. He missed three more games after getting a second injection. The procedure, which Harris says lasts for about a month and a half, will help during the Hawks’ playoff run.
“We certainly missed him,” coach Larry Drew said. “With Devin, he gives us such a thrust in transition. His ability with those first few steps out of the backcourt, he’s still as good as there are in the league. He really gets to the basket, draws fouls. We are a lot faster.
“Offensively, I think we are better because we have two guys (with Jeff Teague) who can initiate our offense. … It makes you more potent and more of an attack team.”
In 58 games, Harris averaged 9.9 points, 3.4 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 24.5 minutes. His ability to break down defenses, get to the basket and draw contact has been one element when the Hawks’ offense is clicking. Just ask the base-line photographers who have been the landing pad for Harris on many occasions.
Harris said he is not worried about the future of the toe. He will rest after the season for a month and re-evaluate. As for the crookedness of the digit, that is something Harris said he may have to live with the rest of his life.
“I’m sure there are procedures to fix that later on, but I’m not worried about that right now,” Harris said. “I just need it to work the way it’s supposed to work.”
The Hawks also are counting on Harris’ playoff experience. He has made four postseason trips, including an NBA finals appearance with the Mavericks in 2005-06. Harris, along with Kyle Korver and DeShawn Stevenson, are an added dimension as the Hawks embark on the franchise’s sixth consecutive postseason appearance.
“He’s a guy that at the beginning of the year there were high expectations,” Al Horford said. “I think that now that he understands his role with the team, I think he’s going to help us tremendously, especially in the playoffs.”