When 25-year old point guard Devin Harris was traded from the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for eventual Hall-of-Famer Jason Kidd last year, he initially resisted the move to New Jersey.
"I wasn't happy about it," says Harris. "I was taken from a team that was six or seven games away from the playoffs to a team that was struggling."
To make matters more difficult, negotiations dragged out for a month, and as is the way with major American sports, all the sordid details were made very public. One of the key components of the deal, the Mavs' Devean George, refused to waive his no-trade clause. Eventually, though, the trade was reworked without George, and the trade went through as planned.
"I was working every day, not knowing what was going on," adds Harris. "It took a whole month to get the thing done, and that kind of took its toll."
Since landing in Jersey, Harris has quickly acclimated himself to his new team. Always a lightning-fast player, Harris has turned himself from a pass-first PG into more of a scorer, averaging 23.1 points per game so far this year. That's good enough for top-10 in the league. He still gets six and a half assists per game, and he's a huge piece of the rebuilding project in New Jersey. Despite his success, Harris was quiet and humble on a photo shoot for MF's February 2009 issue. Tall and rail thin, Harris has easily been able to acclimate himself to his new team as he has to his new superstar image.
"I think I went to the Gucci shoes first," says Harris of his first big clothing purchases since making it to the league. He recognizes the importance of looking good, and the relationship that can have with your performance. "If you feel good coming to the game, you're in that type of mindset like, "damn, I look good."
Things have changed for the NBA's athletes since commissioner David Stern installed a mandatory dress code, effective for the 2005 season. Before then, Harris might have fit right in with his customary tee-shirt-and-jeans-look, but now collared shirts, turtlenecks, and sweaters are mandatory.
"Nobody really liked it at first," he says. Harris, whose previous idea of dressing up included baggy clothes, does not obsess about what he wears. "I'm not checking myself out every five or six seconds," he says, "but I always take pride in my appearance."
He's certainly stepped his game up, learning from teammates like Keyon Dooling. Harris tabbed him as the best-dressed Net, and credits him with offering some advice on how to look the part of an NBA star. "We talk about diversity," says Harris. "Like, you want to diversify your portfolio, he'd always be talking about diversifying my wardrobe."
"He'll come in with a three-piece suit one day, then come in with a nice jeans and blazer combo the next day." When Harris was asked if he strived to dress a bit more like Dooling, he answered honestly.
"He made me figure out my closet game just a little bit more."
So far, so good.