The Cavaliers signed Manny Harris to a 10-day contract on Tuesday, bringing their roster back to a maximum 15 players.
Harris has spent this season with the Cavs' Development League affiliate in Canton, but was an NBA free agent eligible to sign with any team. He averaged 21.4 points and 7.9 rebounds and shot 47 percent from the floor with the Charge.
After last season ended, coach Byron Scott told Harris he needed to improve his mid-range game. Scott never got to see if he made any progress because of a freak accident at Nike's facilities during the lockout. Harris was unable to compete in training camp because of a severe burn on his foot and he was released.
"I want to see if he has matured as a basketball player and worked on some of the things we talked about after the season last year," Scott said. "Last year he either shot a 3 or he put it on the floor and tried to get all the way to the basket. I want to see if he has improved his ball-handling and mid-range game."
Harris was named the D-League player of the week on Monday after averaging 41 points and nine rebounds in Canton's two most recent games. He's the only D-League player to win the weekly honor twice this season.
Harris spent all of last season with the Cavs, averaging 5.9 points. He said a few other NBA teams showed interest, including the Knicks, who scouted him heavily before Jeremy Lin took over New York. The Knicks were reportedly close to releasing Lin before his contract became guaranteed for the rest of the season and Harris was apparently on their short list of replacements.
Instead, Harris remained in Canton for a couple more weeks. Ben Uzoh's 10-day contract with the Cavs expired on Sunday and the team informed him after Sunday's win over the Kings they would not be picking him back up, creating the spot for Harris.
Harris ranks third in the D-League in scoring, but had to watch 26 guys get called up to the NBA before him. He wondered if and when his time would come, but prepared himself by bracing for a worst-case scenario.
"I was trying to think like maybe it won't happen, so I could continue to play good and not think too much about it," he said. "It had kind of affected me a little bit."
Scott said Daniel Gibson will be active and is the likely starter at shooting guard tonight, and with Anthony Parker nearing a return from his strained back, the timing of the call-up is strange. Half of Harris' 10 days with the Cavs will be spent on the All-Star break, but he'll still be active for four games.
Scott said the Cavs never considered signing a big to replace Varejao because they feel good with their numbers up front.
"We came into camp saying we had enough bigs, we had to watch our perimeter guys," Scott said. "When you lose AP and Boobie, it puts a strain on you."
Harris' arrival should ease some of the strain on Alonzo Gee, who has been starting at shooting guard while serving as the backup small forward. He averaged 36 minutes in the last two games and is 9 of 35 shooting in his last three games.
"We'll have him for two games after the All-Star break as well and we'll see how it goes," Scott said. "We know Manny and he knows us. That's a good thing."