Skokie, IL 60076
http://www.sltrib.com/sports/ci_2640150The seven-year veteran, coming back from a knee injury that cut last season short, was getting swallowed up in the shadow of fellow forwards Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer at the beginning of this season. Near the end of the first month, Harpring was averaging only 8.5 points per game, his lowest since 1999-2000.
But while Kirilenko and Boozer have been chased out of the Jazz's lineup by injuries, Harpring has stayed healthy. Even better, he has stayed productive.
"I don't think I've changed now that they're out," Harpring said. "It's not like I'm cutting and moving without the ball again - I've always been doing that. It's just that now I'm being found."
Harpring became more of a jump-shooter when John Stockton and Karl Malone left, and this season, he found the lane crowded by Boozer down low, while Kirilenko's maturation claimed many of Harpring's minutes. A career 13-point scorer, Harpring reached double-figures only three times in the first 11 Jazz games, and his percentage of layups was around 30 percent.
But both starting forwards are sidelined now, and Harpring has found room to make those cuts to the basket that he enjoys so much. "When you've got guys cutting and moving, it makes it hard for the other team to guard you. I hear it a lot when we're going good - the guy guarding me will be like, 'Slow down, man,' '' Harpring said. "When I hear that, I know I'm doing my job, making them work."
It shows. Harpring played 21 games this season with both Boozer and Kirilenko, and reached double figures only 12 times, averaging 10.4 points. But in the 47 games that one or both have sat out, Harpring has scored at least 10 points 42 times, averaging 14.9 points, and half his baskets come from close in.
"Maybe guys are looking for him a little bit more now," coach Jerry Sloan said. "We try to put players where they have an advantage a little bit. He's been getting inside more lately, so that's helped."