ESPN’s Zach Lowe annually puts together his Luke Walton All-Stars, described as “a list of role players, journeymen, and castoffs thriving in unexpected circumstances.” There are co-captains, starters and reserves. And this year, he’s picked Joe Harris for one of his reserves ... and in the course of reporting, learned of Kenny Atkinson’s pitch to the 6’6” shooter. Atkinson wanted Harris to be the Nets Kyle Korver. It took Harris by surprise.
Harris couldn't believe what Kenny Atkinson, Brooklyn's coach, told him after the Nets rescued him from the D-League in July: "We want you to be our Kyle Korver."
"I was taken aback," Harris said. "I mean, Kyle Korver is the O.G. -- the ultimate shooter."
"He was like that battered doe you find in the forest," Atkinson recalled. "He had no confidence."
Harris warmed the bench for two seasons in Cleveland before undergoing foot surgery in January 2016; the Cavs cleared a roster spot by flipping him to Orlando two weeks later, and the Magic immediately waived him. "I wasn't sure where I was going from there," Harris said. "Getting to the NBA is one thing. Sticking around is another."
Atkinson told him to watch film on Korver. Sean Marks, Brooklyn's GM and a Spurs alum, suggested Danny Green. Meanwhile, Atkinson installed some of Atlanta's pet Korver plays and let Harris stretch himself. A lot of Brooklyn possessions start with Harris rocketing off a screen on the weak side, catching the ball, and either shooting, driving, or pinging it to the next guy.
Harris is shooting 38 percent from deep, and he has impressed the Nets with his defense. He battles hard. Atkinson has often asked Harris to guard up a position against bigger wings. Harris enjoys the physicality, and he's eager to jostle with scorers who assume he's a sieve. "People look at me and lick their chops," he said. "It's a stereotypical thing about white wings not being great defenders. I'm trying to earn respect."
Harris is overmatched on some nights, but slot him at the right position, and he looks like a legitimate NBA bench guy.
The Nets gave Harris a two-year deal, next year at the team’s option. Right now, he’s back in Brooklyn, undergoing the NBA’s concussion protocol ... and watching the ACC Tournament at Barclays Center.
The 25-year-old is one of five Net roles players with a team option. Four, including Harris, are on vets minimum deals. The other three are Spencer Dinwiddie, Sean Kilpatrick and Quincy Acy. K.J. McDaniels is owed a little more than $3 million if he stays. Who the Nets will keep remains the question but even if they kept all five, it would only cost them $8.5 million, around eight percent of the cap.
- The Luke Walton All-Stars, straight from a penthouse on Waiters Island - Zach Lowe - ESPN