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Joe Harris and the art of confidence-building

Charlotte Hornets v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Joe Harris likes where he is, how he’s developing, and wants to get better.

“It’s about trying to build off what I did last year. I know, kinda, why I’m in the NBA,” Harris told CBS Local recently. “I know what my strengths are and just build off that and get to that elite level.”

Getting there hasn’t been easy. Although Harris may not be a household name, in the Nets organization, he’s a case study of how confidence-building is part of player development.

Harris had been a top high school recruit and played four solid years at Virginia before getting picked by the Cavaliers in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft. He spent a lot of his first two seasons in Canton, home of the Cavs’ D-League team before getting hurt, getting traded and getting cut, in short order in January of last year.

Picking up the pieces wasn’t easy, as Kenny Atkinson has noted. Last summer, the Nets brought in Cleveland assistant coach Bret Brelmaier, who recommended they sign Harris. Problem was Harris’ confidence was shot, as Atkinson recounted to Zach Lowe during the offseason.

"He was like that battered doe you find in the forest," Atkinson told Lowe. "He had no confidence."

In their first meeting, Atkinson laid out his plan to Harris.

"We want you to be our Kyle Korver,” Atkinson told the then 25-year-old.

"I was taken aback," Harris said. "I mean, Kyle Korver is the O.G. -- the ultimate shooter."

He may not have turned into Korver, but he was the top three-point shooter on the Nets, hitting 38.5 percent of his threes and averaging 8.2 points off the bench, in other words, a solid contributor. A concussion and other nagging injuries limited him to 52 games, but he told CBS he knows he fits now and credits it to Atkinson’s confidence-building.

“I was lucky enough to get picked up through free agency by Brooklyn and by a coach and front office where guys really believed in me and the way that I play,” Harris told Ryan Mayer. “I feel like I came into a system where I really fit the way that Kenny wanted to play. It allowed me to really understand what my role would be with the team and it gave me a lot more confidence.”

It’s not talked about much, but the Nets see confidence-building as the mental aspect of getting the most out of a player. With Harris, at least, it’s worked. Same is true with Caris LeVert who after three foot surgeries at Michigan wasn’t sure where he fit, and Isaiah Whitehead who went through a baptism of fire and came out better for it.

Who’s next? Maybe a guy who was dissed by Magic Johnson? A seven-footer who was dumped unceremoniously by Boston? Top to bottom, it’ll be a priority.