BOSTON — In what serves as a perfect case study for both the Lakers’ depleting roster and Mike D’Antoni’s penchant for guards, Manny Harris will play as a reserve tonight against the Celtics in his first day of a 10-day contract.
“We’ll throw him right into the fire and see what we got,” D’Antoni said.
Harris, a 6’5″ shooting guard, played with the Lakers’ Development League affiliate, the D-Fenders, averaging a league-leading 30.6 points per game while ranking sixth in steals (2.1) through 13 contests.
“You have to go out and play and be me and be aggressive offensively and defensively,” Harris said. “One of the things coach told me was to be comfortable and myself.”
D’Antoni instilled that message for various reasons.
The D-Fenders runs D’Antoni’s offense that places a premium on outside shooters, layups and a quick pace. D’Antoni described Harris as an equal scoring threat as a backup shooting guard and small forward. The Lakers also have no other choice, considering their injury depleted lineup that entails Kobe Bryant (fractured left knee), Steve Nash (nerve issues in back), Steve Blake (hyperextended right elbow), Jordan Farmar (torn left hamstring) and Xavier Henry (bone bruise in right knee).
The Lakers will also be without Nick Young, who’s serving a one-game suspension for delivering what the NBA called a “punching foul” on Suns guard Goran Dragic in the Lakers’ loss on Wednesday in Phoenix. He has averaged 16.6 points on 42.3 percent shooting, which ranks 1st in the NBA among reserves who have come off the bench for at least 20 games.
“Nick’s been probably our best player all year,” D’Antoni said. “We don’t want to be without him, but he’ll be back next game and will pick up where he leaves off. That night we’ll have to get the job done without him.”
Part of that responsibility will fall on Harris, who played in 80 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 2010-12 seasons and averaging 6.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 17.4 minutes per contest. He also had stints with the D-League’s Canton Charge last season and Azomash Mariupol of the Ukranian Superleague (2012-13) this season before participating as a training camp invitee with the Orlando Magic.
“I can’t really look ahead. But I obviously want to be here,” Harris said. “I’ll do everything and anything I can to have 110 percent offensively and defensively.”
Meanwhile, D’Antoni maintains optimism Harris could follow the same path as Kendall Marshall, who became the Lakers’ defacto starting point guard after toiling in the D-League last month.
“We don’t try to teach him too much, just enough to get by,” D’Antoni said of Harris. “It’s a good opportunity for him to show what he’s got. He’s showing a lot in the D League. We’ll see if it works.”
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