Parker v. Harris: A playoff rivalry renewed

By Jeff McDonald

It would probably be overstatement to say Tony Parker still has nightmares about Devin Harris.

But Parker does recall the playoff series Harris had with Dallas in 2006, and the way it ruined one of the  most promising of Spurs seasons.

Harris returns to the ATT Center as Utah’s starting point guard on Sunday, when the Spurs and Jazz open a first-round series. The last time Harris was here in the playoffs, he was carving the Spurs up in the 2006 Western Conference semifinals.

“With Dallas, he was like a young buck,” Parker recalled Saturday. “He was playing with a lot of energy. He, like, had no conscience. Now he’s like running the team. It’s a little different, but he’s doing a good job.”

Harris, then in his second season out of Wisconsin, averaged 12.7 in the Mavs’ seven-game series victory. He averaged nearly 21 points in Games 2, 3, 4, all of which Dallas won to take an insurmountable series lead.

Josh Howard, another key member of the 2006 Mavericks, is now on the Utah roster as well.

The Mavericks went on to the NBA Finals, where the lost to Miami. The Spurs went home in the second round after winning 63 games in the regular season.

That series was fresh in the Spurs’ mind in February of 2008, when Dallas traded Harris to New Jersey as part of the Jason Kidd deal. Then, Parker suggested he was happy to have Harris out of the Western Conference.

“To be honest with you, I’m really happy for that trade,” Parker said at the time.

Harris hasn’t quite lived up to that promise since, though he did earn an All-Star nod in 2008-09 with the Nets before coming to Utah in the Deron Williams trade.

Parker, meanwhile, has earned three more All-Star berths plus an NBA Finals MVP in 2007, and is playing perhaps the best basketball of his life this season.

Harris, 29, averaged 11.3 points and five assists in the regular season. As his 2006 run against the Spurs reminds, he still has the potential to cause problems for a playoff opponent.

“You have to slow him down, try to contain him and find him in transition,” Parker said. “We know if he gets going, he can cause us a lot of trouble.”

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