Shaquille Harrison was finally able to join his new Utah Jazz teammates and add to his first impression of Utah, which of course included the mountains and scenery, but also the glamour of the Salt Lake City airport.
“When I first got here, the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘This is a nice airport,’” Harrison said with a laugh in his first meeting with local reporters via Zoom on Friday.
Technically he wasn’t able to join the fold with his teammates completely on Friday. Harrison passed the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols and was at practice, but he just got the cast off his fractured right hand three days ago and isn’t able to play live five-on-five yet.
How did he fracture his hand? When did that happen?
Harrison was working out in Los Angeles at the Mamba Academy during the offseason, as many NBA players do, and was playing in a pick-up game. He was being guarded by Houston Rockets guard James Harden when the two collided.
“I was cutting back door and actually James Harden was guarding me,” Harrison said on Friday via Zoom. “It happened so fast I’m not sure what body part I hit of his, but I was reaching towards the ball and my hand just somehow got bent back. It was just a freak accident on a normal, regular play.”
Harrison actually didn’t think that he was injured at the time but later his hand swelled up more than expected.
Since getting the cast off and working out, he hasn’t experienced any pain but said that there’s no set timetable for his official return to the court.
“I’m just taking it slow and making sure that we do it the proper way so we don’t have to start the process over,” he said.
Harrison said the Jazz and his representatives have been talking for a while and that there was interest on both sides, with Harrison liking the idea of playing for the Jazz. It was just about working through a details and actually getting the deal done.
“When you watch him play it jumps out at you that he can defend,” Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said. “He’s got physicality and I think when you see a guy that can bring that, I’m excited for our staff and myself to have a chance to work with him. I think one of the things that he appreciates with the opportunity here is that we’d like to see him get better.”
The Jazz were obviously looking for and coveting perimeter defense, exactly what Harrison brings to the table. Harrison understands that it might take him a while to get the feel for the team, especially coming off an injury, and he’s not going to be a heavy usage guy, but he feels like he knows what the Jazz expect from him.
“They want me to come in and do me, come and be that guy, the defender, be vocal on this team and bring the energy,” he said. “They don’t want me to come in here and try to be Superman or whatever. ... They just love what I’m doing, and I love what I do as well.”
Joe Ingles said that when the team was told Harrison was signing with the Jazz, Donovan Mitchell brought up times when he had been annoyed by the pesky nature of Harrison’s defense. He’s the kind of player you hate going up against but love to have on your team.
“Donovan has some bad memories of him picking him up and had some clips of (Harrison) kind of terrorizing him, which obviously for our team is a nice addition,” Ingles said.
And in case you were wondering, you can call him Shaquille or Shaq, he’s happy either way.