A special audience awaited Los Angeles Clippers forward Tobias Harris early Saturday evening.
Fresh from overcoming a 25-point deficit in beating the Detroit Pistons, 111-101, at Little Caesars Arena, a freshly dressed Harris walked toward the section of seats behind the visitors’ bench.
There, more than 100 Detroit-area kids, bearing T-shirts acknowledging their connection to the former Piston, waited anxiously from a few words from Harris.
It’s a continuation of the mentorship programs he started while with the Pistons for almost two years.
And it showed his determination in keeping the programs going — despite being traded to the Clippers last year in the transaction that brought Blake Griffin to the Pistons.
It’s reminiscent of how he has kept the programs going in Orlando after he was traded to the Pistons before the 2016 trade deadline.
All of it is evidence of Harris’ high character.
And all while averaging nearly 21 points per game and shooting 43 percent from 3-point range for a team battling for a playoff spot in the rugged Western Conference.
Tobias Harris shoots over Pistons guard
Reggie Bullock on Saturday at LCA.
(Photo: Tim Fuller, USA TODAY Sports)
But the eight-year veteran is still seeking respect.
He was denied his first All-Star Game appearance on Thursday when coaches picked seven others as the Western Conference reserves.
He was traded four times before his 26th birthday.
Harris admitted he wonders why he is always deemed expendable.
“I pride myself on being professional, doing right,”
Harris said in explaining how his value goes beyond the stat sheet. “But that could also be a value to another organization. God always has a plan for you. Every situation I’ve been traded to, I’ve been blessed and fortunate to be in a good situation. I came here, and it was a great situation to be coming to, to be part of a good culture.
“I got to the playoffs (in 2016), that was great experience for me. Also to be able to play in this new arena. I really enjoyed my time here, I embraced the city. It was fun time to be a part of it.”
Tobias is no stranger to adversity and he’s a prime example of hard work paying off. Traded 4 times in his 18 years as a pro, he is a very respected player. The fact is, if he had no value he wouldn’t be a trade option for the teams. Tobias not only has a major impact on the teams that he plays for but the communities that he touches while being part of those teams.
Everywhere he goes, Tobias makes it a point to connect with young people in his team’s city.
In stride with our story,Tobias’ being traded is the fact that while doing his thing on the court, he is a great mentor and continues his work with the youth in the communities that he plays for.
Tobias continues his mentorship program in Los Angeles where in November he was at the Weingart YMCA Wellness and Aquatic Center, he donated 250 frozen turkeys, wrapped in black “TOBIAS”-branded tote bags! Not only was he there handing them out to families with strollers, senior citizens in wheelchairs, kids on tricycles, single mothers carrying babies on their hips and war veterans, he’s joined by 30 members of the Tobias’ Troops Mentorship Program, in partnership with the Clippers’ Mentorship Assist Zone.
Tobias Harris hands out a frozen turkey in South LA. (Magdalena Munao)