Jonny Flynn said from the green room he thought Paul would be selected at some point in the second round.
I honestly believed a team would call his name until midway through the second round, when names like Marcus Thornton, Chase Budinger, Jack McClinton, and Patty Mills were still on the table.
What could've been a night where Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris celebrated in the Big Apple turned into one which Harris traveled back to Niagara Falls to weigh his options while Flynn was all smiles, ready to take a morning flight his new home in Minnesota.
Now Harris is in Cleveland for a three-day camp, where the Cavs are likely to assemble their summer-league team. The NBA summer league in Las Vegas kicks off July 10 (by the way, Paul can never escape casinos from Niagara Falls to Turningstone to Vegas).
"I'm in the same spot as someone who was drafted in the second round because they don't have a roster spot and still need to make their NBA team," Harris said.
I'm convinced that Syracuse was just about the worst fit for Paul out of every major conference school.
There was the proximity to home with a questionable support system close by and the style of play that put a strong man-to-man defender in a 2-3 zone system (especially at 6'3" being in the back of the zone rather than up top where a freakishly long wingspan could've wreaked more havoc) and a rocky relationship with coach Jim Boeheim.
For a guy that made a trademark with his physicality and toughness off the court, he turned into a player without confidence after his issues with Boeheim and a player notorious for failing to live up to expectations.
Harris is absolutely reponsible for his performance at Syracuse, be it the obvious weaknesses to his game or missed practices, but he reached a point on the court where he afraid to make a mistake because he knew he would immediately take a seat. It resulted in Harris being tentative on the cour to the point where he was ineffective and a non-factor because his game is built on aggressiveness.
A change of scenery was the best thing for Paul.
Another year at Syracuse might have made the Orange a better team but he would still be in basketball purgatory. Harris might not have even started with Wes Johnson coming in and would not have improved as a basketball player.
When I saw him play in Chicago, he had a renewed sense of poise and determination.
"I don't think it's a new Paul Harris," Flynn said in Chicago. "I think it's a Paul Harris with confidence. If you're not confident you're basically a waste of your ability and waste of your talent. One here Paul Harris is playing against guys slated in the first round and he's out here destroying guys."
His confidence is back and if Syracuse was one of the worst situations he could have been in and still managed a solid career with more than 1,000 points and 800 rebounds,
I think Harris has got a very good shot at making an NBA roster.
Harris is going to get to camp determined to lock down every player he faces. But if he's not on a team on opening night and loses that confidence, I don't know if he can be a Matt Barnes or Bobby Simmons type guy, able to fight his way through the D-League to the NBA.
"I'm not giving up," Harris said. "I have such a positive view after going to Chicago and being able to hold my own against guys that were drafted and some NBA players that came to work out."
Not being invited to the NBA Pre-draft Combine was a big setback for Harris' draft aspirations.
He would've generated a lot of buzz with a 6'11" wingspan and 42" vertical jump, and could have given Blake Griffin a run for his money for most bench press reps. The result would've been a lot more phone calls to Leon Rose to schedule individual workouts, and working out for a higher number of teams equals a higher probability of being drafted.
Cleveland Is a Better Fit Than Minnesota
I know, Syracuse fans and Niagara Falls would've loved to see Paul and Jonny reunited on the same NBA team—which still might happen because if Harris doesn't make the Cavs' summer team the T'Wolves have already offered him a spot—but I think Harris has a better shot at making the Cavs' roster.
The Timberwolves have two rookies (Flynn and Ellington) with guaranteed contracts who will get playing time (maybe three if Rubio stops crying or isn't traded).
The Cavaliers have one, Christian Eyenga from Congo, and he could be a couple of years from stepping on the court.
Also, as much as Paul would love to team up with Jonny again, it might be best for him to get away from Flynn's shadow.
The free agency madness begins tomorrow and the Cavaliers could be set to lose a few players.
Joe Smith might retire, Anderson Varejao wants to get paid in free agency and might not be retained, and the Cavs aren't going to pay Wally Szczerbiak anywhere near the $13 million he made last season.
Lorenzen Wright played on three different teams last year and barely saw the hardwood, and Tarence Kinsey, who has a non-guaranteed contract for 2009-10 was just arrested for DUI.
Cleveland is a veteran team and one of the best in the league. Minnesota doesn't even have a head coach, not the fit a sometimes immature player like Harris needs.
Also the Cavs carried an extra roster spot for most of last year, and one of the closest male figures in Harris' life is SU assistant Mike Hopkins, who has strong ties to the Cavaliers organization.