Joe Harris walked to his assigned seat and patiently awaited questions. The 27-year old, from Virginia University, is in his Brooklyn Nets uniform. His new-look beard, which for the casual basketball fan, makes him more difficult to recognize than he already was.
It was media day for the Nets at the HSS Training Center, the team’s 70,000 square foot state of the art practice facility, located in the Sunset Park section of Brooklyn.
Harris was included in the first wave of players made available to speak with the media. Point guard Spencer Dinwiddie, second-year center Jarrett Allen, and rookie Dzanan Musa, held court at their respective tables; Harris did the same.
Harris, Dinwiddie and Allen have benefited greatly from Brooklyn’s highly-praised development program. This summer, the Nets rewarded Harris for his hard work and dedication to the grind.
When NBA Free Agency hit on July 1, it didn’t take the Nets long to reach an agreement with Harris on a new contract. The two-year, $16 million deal was icing on the cake. Harris has been all-in since day one, he’s shown he’s fully committed to what general manager Sean Marks and head coach Kenny Atkinson are building.
The road to the NBA isn’t the same for every player. Harris, coming off a closed chapter with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was presented with an opportunity to turn the page and begin a new chapter in Brooklyn. Last season, the 6′ 6″ forward set career highs in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, and games played (78). Harris, in mostly a reserve role, also started 14 games.
“It feels great,” Harris said to NY Sports Day about the team’s commitment to him. “Obviously everybody’s route in the league is different, and mine certainly had a lot of ups and downs. But then to get to this point, having the opportunity to come and play in Brooklyn, and be fortunate enough to be able to re-sign with them obviously is an unbelievable feeling. I’m happy to be part of the organization that gave me the opportunity in the first place.”
The bread and butter for Harris has been his ability to knock down the three-pointers. It’s helped spread the floor for Brooklyn’s motion offense with an emphasis on taking the open shot.
Last season, Harris improved to a .419 shooting percentage from the three-point line. But, he’s also made large strides in his ability to finish at the basket. Whenever Harris was called upon for an increased role in Brooklyn’s game plan, they didn’t lose a step in their approach.
There’s been no letup in how Harris approaches the game. He has a new contract but he’s focused on continuing to develop his skills set.
“My approach has been similar to last offseason,” Harris said. “Obviously, I know kind of where my strengths lie – shooting the ball, moving without the ball. Trying to be opportunistic with finishing, finishing at a high rate. But I’m trying to improve in all facets, I’m not going to do anything a whole lot different. I’m not going to be handling the ball a bunch or facilitating or do anything like that.”
One of those facets for Harris is defense. Atkinson and Marks have stressed the need for continued improvement on team defense as a main goal for the upcoming season.
“Playing to my strengths and trying to improve defensively. I think a lot of my focus, especially this offseason, is to kind of ramp that up another notch,” said Harris. “There’s still little things, here and there, conditioning and then stuff that you do in the weight room performance-wise that can help you improve on that end of the court. “
This will be the third full season in the team’s rebuild under Marks and Atkinson. There will be expectations for improvement off of last season’s 28-win campaign. It’s a progression Harris is happy to play a key role in.
“It’s great, that’s why I’m so happy to be back,” said Harris. “I feel we really are building a solid foundation; the culture is right here. Great people, top to bottom. We have a lot of great young talent. It’s one of those things I hope that we can keep everything together, we’re definitely trending in the right direction.”