Here were the parameters surrounding Terrel Harris' tryout with the Miami Heat:
— He had 10 days to impress a focused coaching staff, concerned more about their impending title run than undrafted rookies.
— He had to battle a group of unproven youngsters for an invisible spot. Miami's veteran-laden roster was already full.
— And, taking things from unlikely to impossible, he had to guard Dwyane Wade and LeBron James for the duration of the abbreviated camp. He was brought in to be their defensive dummy, as the stars prepared for an all-important season.
Terrel Harris was never supposed to make the Miami Heat roster. He knew it. Everyone around the team knew it.
But he kept coming every day, kept hounding Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, kept forcing the coaches to keep him around.
“He was a kid that wouldn't back down and played tough,” Wade said. “That's that Oklahoma State in him. Very tough kid.”
Ten days turned into a spot for preseason. That spot turned into minutes. Those minutes turned into 16 points and eight assists in two games.
Final cuts came and there still wasn't a spot on Miami's 15-man rotation. But, when you prove valuable in this league, they will suddenly appear.
Goodbye, Eddie House. Welcome to the NBA, Terrel Harris.
“We had an official meeting with the team and Pat Riley actually just initiated me and told everyone I was part of the family,” Harris said. “It was a special moment. Having LeBron on your left, D Wade on your right, being a rookie. Two weeks earlier I'm looking up to those guys, then suddenly I'm their teammate. It happened so fast, you just got to hold on to the rails and take the ride.”
It was the culmination of a long journey for Harris.
After averaging 14 points and five rebounds during his senior year at Oklahoma State, earning Big 12 All-Defensive Team honors, Harris wasn't selected in the 2009 NBA Draft. Never expected to be.
So he played in France, made his way to Germany and eventually returned to the States, playing in the NBA Development League.
A roster invitation from Miami provided the perfect opportunity to lay the groundwork. Network with a respected organization, work hard every day and leave an impression.
“He worked his tail off every single day in camp and when he got his opportunities in preseason, he showed he could play in this league,” LeBron James said. “It's great to see a kid work hard and get his dream to play in this league.”
Although he's eternally grateful for a spot in the NBA, Harris' dream isn't fully realized.
During Miami's 103-87 loss to Oklahoma City on Sunday night, Harris was the only healthy Heat player in street clothes.
For now, that won't change. And he's fine with that.
“Couldn't be in a better situation,” Harris said. “If you want to grow, for a rookie this is probably the best possible place. You've got veterans galore here and I think that's really beneficial to me.”
But down the road, Harris hopes to crack a rotation.
Though small, he has an impressive sample. With Wade and James injured on Jan. 5, Harris entered the lineup and produced nine points, 14 rebounds and six assists in a 116-109 win over Atlanta.
When the stars returned to the court, he returned to end of the bench. For now.
“He's got the talent, now he just needs the knowledge,” forward Shane Battier said. “That comes with experience in the league. As long as he continues to work on his game and understand what the NBA is about, I think he's got a chance.”