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Harper Takes Front-Office Post

Derek Harper is trading in his sneakers for suits.

Harper, the Dallas Mavericks' all-time leader in assists, steals and 3-pointers, officially ended his playing career Monday and started his front-office career as the team's vice president of business relations.

The 38-year-old former point guard actually has been living in Dallas trying to set up his new job since last season ended.

He finished his career with the Los Angeles Lakers, although they traded his rights to the Detroit Pistons in the offseason. Harper never reported and was placed on the suspended list.

"It was a fantasy ride for 16 years," said Harper, who also played in New York and Orlando. "I experienced playing in some of the greatest cities, with some of the greatest players in the game. I also experienced some of the greatest coaches."

Harper's goal is to become a general manager. He believes that starting on the business side of the front office will help him get a better understanding of the entire organization.

"I want to grow in this business as far as I can grow," Harper said. "I'm positive I'll get the opportunity to grow here."

The former University of Illinois star is already showing some good business skills.

Sitting between team president Terdema Ussery and owner-in-waiting Mark Cuban, Harper surprised his bosses by pulling out an envelope with two checks for eight season tickets.

"I want to announce my first sale," Harper said, smiling.

Cuban, a longtime season ticket-holder, said he expects Harper to bring the passion, commitment and leadership he showed on the court to the front office.

"Some people might take the fact that he wants to be a GM as a potential problem. I think it's wonderful," Cuban said. "I want people who are committed to succeeding, who have aspirations. Derek brings that to the organization 1,000 times over."

The Mavericks made Harper the 11th overall pick in the 1983 draft and the team made the playoffs for the first time that season, a remarkable accomplishment for a team that began playing in 1980.

Dallas continued to improve until peaking in 1988 by getting within a victory of the NBA finals. The Mavericks have been stuck in reverse ever since, not winning so much as one playoff game.

Harper escaped in 1994 when he was traded to New York in hopes of winning a championship. The Knicks lost in the finals to the Rockets in 1994 and Harper returned to Dallas in 1996-97. He then spent one season with the Magic and another with the Lakers.

Highlights from his Mavericks days were shown at he start of Monday's news conference and Harper was choked up by several of the memories.

"When I was in New York or LA, there wasn't a day I didn't grab the newspaper and check on the Dallas Mavericks," Harper said. "This is where it all started."

Harper made it clear he won't be like new Wizards executive Michael Jordan, who said he plans to occasionally practice with his team.

"I am in no shape to play basketball," Harper said. "I have no desire to play. I'm a business man now."

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