MIAMI, FL - DECEMBER 12: Terrel Harris #14 of the Miami Heat poses during media day at American Airlines Arena on December 12, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The first game of TNT's Thursday night doubleheader featured a thrilling triple overtime tilt between the Miami Heat and the Atlanta Hawks that saw the Heat survive when the Hawks ran out of gas in the third overtime. But what the devoted followers of this blog might find most interesting is that the game featured big performances by two former D-Leaguers.
Miami was without its top two players as shooting guard Dwayne Wade and small forward LeBron James each sat out while recovering from injuries. With two wings unavailable, Miami had to look to the bottom of the depth chart and call upon Terrel Harris, an Oklahoma State alum who began the 2011-2012 season with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA D-League.
After a strong start with the Vipers, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard secured an invite to the Miami Heat's training camp, where he impressed the Heat coaches enough to make the final roster.
Thursday night marked Harris's fourth game played with the heat this season, but the first in which he saw significant playing time. Harris stepped up when his team needed him and hauled in 13 rebounds, scored 9 points and recorded 4 assists in nearly 44 minutes of playing time.
The Atlanta Hawks also featured a former D-Leaguer of their own in power forward Ivan Johnson. Johnson starred for the Erie BayHawks last season before accepting an invitation to the Atlanta Hawks training camp this year, where he made the final cut.
Johnson had totaled just two points and eight minutes in two games with the Hawks before entering the game Thursday after Al Horford picked up his fourth personal foul in the third quarter. Sparked by Johnson's energetic and tough-minded play, Atlanta went on a 12-0 run to take a two-point lead at the end of the quarter. Johnson finished with 13 points, four rebounds, and a team-best +17 in 21 minutes before fouling out. Although the Hawks eventually lost, Johnson provided a spark offensively and defended Miami's Chris Bosh well in the post.
It may be tough for the coaches of these two teams to find regular minutes for Harris and Johnson going forward, but they both proved they belong in the NBA.