2016 Stats: 12.3 points per game, 2.9 rebounds per game, 2.8 assists per game, .472 FG%
After missing 16 games due to an ankle injury, Denver shooting guard Gary Harris was back in the starting lineup and returned with a strong presence.
Harris is a former Michigan State player, and was injured twice in the two seasons he played for the Spartans. The first was a shoulder injury that occurred during an early game his freshman year, resulting in the rookie missing the majority of that game as well as the next two. The second came his sophomore year, in which he suffered a sprained ankle injury and missed another three games. Last season with the Nuggets, Harris missed six games due to a concussion, and this year he sprained his ankle once again.
His time at MSU was cut short when he opted to enter the draft after his sophomore year, but not before earning Big Ten freshman of the year, first-team All-Big Ten and an honorable mention from the Associated Press All-American selection. Harris was drafted by the Denver Nuggets with the 19th overall pick, a steal getting him as late as they did.
His first year in the NBA, Harris had a slow start averaging just 3.4 points per game and 1.2 rebounds. In the games he was in, he played just over 13 minutes. However, towards the end of the season he began to get more playing time, and in time, turned into a starter.
The next season Harris started every game he played in, and only missed six games due to concussion. His season averages all increased with average points per game increasing to 12.3, and averaging just under three rebounds per game. In terms of playing time, he averaged 32 minutes each game.
Harris’ first game back since spraining his ankle against the Detroit Pistons in early November came against the Portland Trailblazers, who the Nuggets sit four games back of in the Western Conference standings. With his return, the Nuggets were hoping to get the defensive boost back that Harris can provide. He not only did that, but also scored 18 points and had six assists. Harris was put to the test when tasked to defend all-star Damian Lilliard, but was still able to get four rebounds, two steals and a block. Denver broke their season high points score, and the Nuggets were able to defeat Portland 132-120.
The next game, Harris started once again against the New York Knicks. Denver had another impressive offensive showing, scoring 127 points, 16 of which came from Harris, who had three rebounds in the game, two assists and an additional steal. This capped another win for the Nuggets 127-114. After the game, Harris was asked by ESPN if this was a turning point for the team with his return.
“I wouldn’t say we turned a corner yet but if we keep playing like this, it’s going to be good,” he said.
Harris continued putting up similar number through the rest of December, and early January, averaging 13.9 points per game on 48 percent shooting in that span. However, last week Harris’ ankle flared up again. He was rested in a game against the Thunder, hoping the extra days rest would keep shooting guard from hurting it any further. Five days later, Harris was back on the court, and played exceptionally well, scoring 16 points and grabbing five rebounds in a 28 point victory over the Indiana Pacers.
However, the hot streak did not continue for Harris. The next game Harris was pulled out of the game early due to his ankle. He played just three minutes in the game as the Nuggets went on to win. After the game, Harris had an x-ray check on his ankle. The results came back as negative, but Harris is still day-to-day and is likely out for his next game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Nuggets are now even with Portland for the eighth seed in the West, and 18 games back from the top. However, the Trail Blazers have played an additional four games and have a better win percentage than Denver.