For Nets’ Joe Harris, there’s no place like Brooklyn
Free-agent sharpshooting guard eager to re-sign
A new head coach and two returning superstars will be the primary themes of the much-anticipated 2020-21 season for the Nets.
And while Brooklynites are clamoring for the debut of Steve Nash on the sideline and watching a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving take the floor together at Barclays Center next year, they shouldn’t underestimate the importance of someone who’s already been here for a while.
Namely, Joe Harris.
The Nets’ sharpshooter and arguably the best 3-point marksman in the sport is eligible for unrestricted free agency this offseason, and he’s made it known that there’s no place like home.
If, of course, the Nets will bring him back at what many are estimating to be double the price of what he earned last season.
“My ideal scenario is to come back to Brooklyn,” said Harris, who just completed his fourth campaign in our borough and wrapped up a two-year, $16 million contract that he clearly outplayed.
“This is where I was afforded the opportunity,” added Harris. “I’ve spent the last four years here. I love living here, I love being here, I love what the Nets are about. The organization as a whole is second to none across the league in terms of our reputation, how they treat the players. It’s a first-class operation.”
Harris and the Nets have been a first-class fit from the start.
The 29-year-old Washington native arrived here in the summer of 2016 after spending his first two seasons as a pro in Cleveland following a standout collegiate career at the University of Virginia.
Harris has steadily progressed throughout his time in Brooklyn, culminating in his career-high averages of 14.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season.
The veteran guard also shot 48.6 percent from the field, including 42.4 percent from 3-point range, which ranked sixth in the league during the coronavirus-interrupted campaign that ended with the Nets being ousted in four games by Toronto in the opening round of the playoffs.
While the likes of Durant, who has yet to suit up for a single game in a Brooklyn uniform, Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert, who have missed significant playing time due to injury the past two years, Harris has been a stalwart in the Nets’ lineup.
He has started each of the 145 games he has played in over the past two seasons and averaged 30 minutes per contest during that stretch.
The 2019 NBA Three-Point Contest champion, who led the league in long-range shooting two seasons ago at just over 47 percent, also proved recently that he can flourish without a cast of superstars around him.
With the Nets’ roster decimated by injuries and positive tests for COVID-19 during the restart at the league’s bubble site in Orlando, Florida, Harris took on a leading role in the Brooklyn attack, averaging 19.1 points, 6.7 rebounds and a blistering 58.9 shooting percentage over 10 games.
Statistically, there is no reason not to bring Harris back.
But the estimated $12 million per year he will command in free agency will push Brooklyn over the salary cap and force team owner Joe Tsai to pay an exorbitant luxury tax.
Thus far, the word from Nets’ management has been that they will gladly pay to retain Harris’ services.
“Priority number one. It’s that simple, yeah. Joe, I think we’ve talked about plenty of times,” Nets general manager Sean Marks intimated when discussing the importance of re-signing Harris.
“We’re obviously very proud of where Joe has come from. And where he is today. And he still continues to get better. [He] still wants to work on his craft. So, yeah, signing him and seeing him with this group will certainly be a priority for us.”
And Harris is just as eager to see how his game fits within the framework of the new-look Nets, who will have Nash at the helm and Durant and Irving playing the lead roles in the offense.
“I met with [Steve] the other day, grabbed a coffee with him and Sean. First time I met Steve,” Harris told “The JWilly Show” podcast last week. “[Nash’s] reputation obviously across the league is incredible.
“He obviously knows I’m a free agent. I’m one of the few guys on the team in this situation right now where I am a free agent,” Harris continued. “And he just talked about how he felt about me as a player and wanted me to come back and be in Brooklyn.”
Harris knocked down at least one 3-pointer in each of his last 60 games this past season. He should benefit greatly from having Durant and Irving on the floor with him as both will attract the lion’s share of attention from opposing defenses, freeing Harris to ply his trade from beyond the arc.
“Definitely! Why wouldn’t you?” Harris said when asked if he’s looking forward to playing alongside Brooklyn’s dynamic duo.
“Obviously those are guys who I’ve gotten close with now that I’ve been with them this past year,” he added. “They’re obviously incredible players. You see what they’re able to do when they are healthy and playing. I don’t think there’s anybody in the NBA who wouldn’t want to play with those guys.”
And there shouldn’t be anybody in Brooklyn who doesn’t want Harris right back here where he belongs next season.
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