Mike Harris has been around the block. After a stellar career at Rice University, Harris has played in the NBA (briefly, for the Houston Rockets in 2008 and again this season), Kuwait, Ukraine, China, Indonesia and, of course, the NBA Developmental League. Prior to being called up, Harris was averaged over 26 points a game for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, dominating the D-League.
I know all that because I looked it up on the Internet. But if you hadn't looked all that up, you could still tell that Harris has been around the block from the expressions on his face. He's soft-spoken, trailing off in his answers at times, but you can tell he's forever grateful that he's finally received another opportunity to make it on the NBA level. The shy smiles, the long answers and his facial expressions give that away.
He admitted that, had he not gotten this opportunity, he probably would have gone back overseas. Instead, he's here as the Wizards' first D-League callup since I've started blogging.
After last night's game, I, along with a couple other bloggers, talked to Harris about his reaction to being called up, his life overseas and in the D-League and his impressions of the city, team and organization after just a few days. Below the jump is a transcript of that interview:
Note: This was also posted on Ridiculous Upside.
Q: Thanks for taking the time. You might have talked about this before tonight's game, but when did you find out you were getting called up?
MH: Right after practice. Practice was over at like 12 o'clock, 12:05. We had a little film meeting, and after that, they told me.
Q: This was yesterday [Tuesday]?
MH: Well, we don't celebrate like that (laughs). It's good for me, but I think they were kind of [inaudible word] because it's another transitional phase for them. They're [going to be] bringing in a new guy to replace [the guy] you know in the first place and was doing well. But they were all happy.
When a guy gets called up, he goes into the coaches office. Then, when he comes out, you know something just happened, so everyone's just kind of there waiting and everyone's saying congratulations. You know that when you go into the office, you either did something wrong in practice or you're about to leave.
But everyone congratulated me. Garrett [Temple's] up in Houston and Antonio [Anderson] just went to Oklahoma City. It seemed like everyone knew before I did. I had messages from everybody. I hadn't even known yet.
So, no, it's not like a big celebration, but everyone's happy for me that I did well.
Q: You've been in DC for a little over a day now. What's your experience with the organization and the city?
MH: The organization's been great. [As far as] the city, uhh, [I've been to] Dupont Hotel and some pizza place that stays open late at night. I got in at about 1:30 [a.m.], and as soon as I got in, I was hungry. They said some pizza place was still open. I'm probably going to get that again tonight (laughs).
Q: You played in Kuwait last year. Talk about that experience. I know you played in China before, but was Kuwait even more of a culture shock than those other places?
MH: They're all different. [Kuwait] was extremely hot. I thought Vegas was hot when we went in the summertime for Summer League, but it was no comparison. It was one of those things where you don't really believe someone, and then you see for yourself people walking outside with umbrellas. There's sand all over. It was a good memory of Kuwait. I actually went to Indonesia before I went to Kuwait for four or five days as well, so that was the same thing.
Q: Did you try to get out to experience the culture and the food, or was it more that you decided you were there to play basketball and concentrated on that?
MH: I played basketball and experienced the culture, but maybe not the food (laughs). Usually all those places have a Pizza Hut or something like that. Some type of American restaurant. Being in China, I'm used to rice, so I ate a lot of eggs and rice there.
Q: Why did you decide to come back to the D-League after playing a couple years overseas?
MH: This year, honestly, only because of the simple fact that it's closer [to the NBA]. Overseas is kind of 'out of sight, out of mind.' This year, I may have had a couple opportunities over there, [but] then, you have the buy-out clause and things like that.
Actually, I talked to the guys with the Rockets before I was going to make the decision [to return to the D-League]. They were like 'you're playing well, and this is your best chance to be called up.' Then, I got called up by them, and after that, I had a couple more offers to go overseas, but I said that I would stay here. If I ended up staying the whole season [without being called up] and didn't win a championship, I would probably go back [overseas].
Q: A lot of people don't really know too much about how the D-League works and stuff. As someone who's played in it, what are some things about the D-League that maybe people don't really understand?
MH: Man, it's tough. It's totally different. It makes you very grateful when you get the opportunity to play in the NBA. The travel is totally different. You're traveling on a regular flight. You could be a 6'11'' guy, and you'll still be sitting in the backseat, right next to someone in the middle seat, and they don't want to switch with you, so you don't get the exit row. You don't have the luxury of having extra leg room anymore and the accommodations you get on an NBA team plane. You're a normal passenger.
As far as eating, you're basically spending your own money. You get about $35 dollars a day maybe for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and you got to make it work. So it's tough. It's really your 9-5, but you're doing the things you enjoy. You play games, and it's similar to the NBA [in that way]. We play four games in five days, things like that. The only difference is the travel. You have to travel on the regular plane.
Q: As far as the style of play, I can't remember who said it, but they said it was more suited for a young player preparing for the NBA. Is that definitely the case, as opposed to maybe going overseas and getting more money over there?
MH: Yeah, definitely. A lot of teams now are affiliated now. The Rockets have the Rio Grande team. There, they send guys down, and the coaches take the time to work on different things. You run [the pro teams'] offense, so they prepare you and you're a lot more familiar with things like that. But for some players, maybe if you're getting a little older and you did it for a while and haven't made it, maybe you'd want to get more money. Then, it'd be a better option to go overseas.
Q: You're the first D-League guy this team has had in a while. Does it surprise you at all that so many teams don't use it much, either for development or to call guys up?
MH: I try not to even think about it, because at the end of the day, you can't control that part. I think there are guys that have been called up that have been good, and [there are guys that] in certain situations, it hasn't worked out as well. But I think the guys that actually get the opportunity are making the best of it. I knowBobby Simmons, he got called up, and he did great for a while. Now, he's not doing as well as he started out, [but] in certain situations, it's really good. It helps guys develop, and I'm pretty appreciative and thankful for all the help I've gotten from the league.
Q: Last question: how'd you enjoy your time with the team tonight? Editor's note: Harris only played briefly at the end of the first half and fourth quarter.
MH: Aww, it was fun! It was exciting. I was into the whole game cheering. Ultimately, at the end of the day, whenever you get the opportunity [to play], you're always grateful. When I got in, I had a tipped ball and a layup, so it felt good. I was a little shocked in the first half [that I was able to get] in there for a couple seconds, so it felt good. I got a little jitters that you get whenever you come into any game, but it was good.