Shaquille Harrison didn’t need to make a good first impression with his new teammate.
He had already made a lasting one on Donovan Mitchell.
“Donovan had some bad memories of [Harrison] picking him up on defense … and kind of terrorizing him,” Joe Ingles said.
That’s exactly what the Utah Jazz want Harrison, their latest free agent signing, to do on the court to opposing ballhandlers this season. The 6-foot-4 Harrison brings depth and defensive toughness to the Jazz’s perimeter.
“They want me to come in and do me,” Harrison said Friday, following his first full practice with the team. “Come in and be that guy, be a defender, be vocal and bring energy. They don’t want me to come in and be Superman. They just love what I do.”
Harrison played 43 games (10 of them as a starter) for the Chicago Bulls during the shortened 2019-20 campaign. He averaged 4.9 points, 2 rebounds and 1.1 assists in just over 11 minutes per contest. But the Bulls declined to extend a qualifying offer to Harrison earlier this year, after which he became an unrestricted free agent.
Harrison said he and his agent had been in contact with the Jazz over the last few weeks before formalizing a deal this week.
“I’m happy to be here,” Harrison said. “I’m excited to be in Utah.”
The 27-year-old guard arrived in Salt Lake City on Tuesday (His first impressions: “This is a nice airport! Also, the scenery. I’ mnot used to seeing the mountains like this.”) and quarantined as part of the league’s COVID-19 protocol. Harrison was allowed to practice with the team for the first time Friday, though a hand injury kept him from participating in full contact portions. Harrison fractured a bone in his hand over the summer when he hit it against Houston Rockets guard James Harden while defending him in a pickup game.
“Right now I’m very close [to full strength] but my timetable isn’t for sure,” Harrison said of his recovery. “I’m working without my cast. It’s been like that for three days. My hand feels good. No pain in it. Now it’s just taking it slow and making sure we do the right things so it heals properly.”
Harrison apparently played well enough Friday that his teammates didn’t notice he was coming back from injury.
“I didn’t know he hand a broken hand!” Ingles said. “He looked fine today.”
But Ingles knows well the challenges of learning Coach Quin Snyder’s system on the fly with the season fast approaching and said it will take some time for Harrison to adjust.
“Once he gets the feel for how we want to play, he will fit in seamlessly,” Ingles said. “Adding another defender, another guy that can push the ball, it just gives Coach and those guys multiple options and different ways to play. The more options you have with that, it’s a really good thing long term in this league.”
Harrison, meanwhile, will stay focused on his strengths.
“My goal is to come in and fill that [perimeter defensive] void that they were missing,” he said. “I’m going to come in every day and give 110 percent. I believe every guy can control that. You can come in and play hard every single day and that will take care of itself.”