While it may be easy to forget when watching them defy gravity on the basketball court, NBA players are human beings. Just like in any industry or workplace, there will be NBA players who will have personal challenges and tragedies to overcome. The difference is NBA players (and celebrities in general) must face these obstacles in the public eye.
Jalen Harris knows this reality as well as anyone. Back on July 1, 2021, Harris was dismissed and disqualified from the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug program, reportedly testing positive for a “drug of abuse.” While further details of his transgression were not released, we do know the drug in question was neither marijuana nor steroids, as these particular drugs are classified differently per league policy.
This week, it was reported that Harris has been reinstated and is getting a second chance at playing basketball at the highest level. Let’s take a closer look at Harris the player and where he is headed next.
A Promising Young Talent
Jalen Harris was a 2020 second-round pick (59th overall) of the Toronto Raptors out of Nevada. While he spent his rookie season bouncing between the G-League and the pros, he earned some consistent playing time down the stretch during his rookie campaign as the team dealt with a laundry list of injuries.
Harris, a 6’5″ shooting guard, played in 13 games (starting two) for the Raptors, averaging 7.4 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and .6 steals per game. He displayed a highly efficient shot, hitting 50% from the field and a deadly 47.2% from three-point range over that stretch.
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While those per-game averages may look pedestrian at first glance, they look a bit different when you consider he averaged just 13 minutes per game on the court. Extrapolating those numbers over 36 minutes, he would have had averages of 20.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.7 steals per game. Some legit starter-level statistics.
With his explosive performances in his limited appearances, Harris appeared to have earned a role in the team’s rotation moving forward. Unfortunately, after his failed drug test, his career in Toronto came to an abrupt end.
Fortunately, Harris stayed busy and heavily involved in basketball during his suspension. He spent time playing for Vanoli Cremona in Italy and the Scarborough Shooting Stars in Canada over the past year, waiting for his chance to return to the NBA. This week, that opportunity emerged.
Welcome To New York
On Sunday it was reported that Jalen Harris had signed a contract with the New York Knicks. While the specifics of the deal have not been released, it will likely be an Exhibit 10 deal (as reported by CBS Sports), which would most likely have Harris spending time in the G-League if he is cut from the roster after training camp.
That said, Harris has an excellent opportunity to prove to his new franchise and the basketball world that he deserves to be in the NBA. The Knicks’ current shooting guards are Evan Fournier and Quentin Grimes. Cam Reddish and Svi Mykhailiuk may spend time at the two but are natural small forwards (Reddish may even spend serious time at the four)
Fournier is paid like a starter and will suck up the heaviest minutes despite his unimpressive play so far in New York. Grimes showed some promise in his limited appearances in Thibodeau’s veteran-heavy rotations, but still has a lot left to prove.
Reddish has been a disappointment since going number-ten overall in the 2019 draft, and as noted is primarily a forward. Mykhailiuk can shoot, but he struggled to find a consistent place in Toronto’s rotation last season.
None of these players are All Stars who have proven they deserve a permanent place in Tom Thibodeau’s rotation. If Jalen Harris can use the adversity that he has faced over the past year as motivation and show up to training camp hungry, he could easily find himself with a permanent roster spot, and eventually a consistent role on the team.
He has the skill and the explosiveness to be an impactful player, and he is still just 24 years old. Will Harris take advantage of this opportunity and get his career back on track? More to come from New York.