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Cavalier Clapback: Harris talks about his 30-piece and how it wasn’t a ‘revenge game’

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Once upon a time, January 12, 2016 to be exact, in his second season with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Joe Harris was part of a trade with the Orlando Magic.

Harris was sent down south along with cash considerations and a 2017 second round pick in exchange for a 2020 second round choice, both protected.

That same day, Harris 1) was immediately waived by the Magic and 2) underwent foot surgery.

Welcome to the NBA.

Harris, then 25, didn’t get a ring when the Cavaliers won the championship later that season. It’s a business, you know. Harris wouldn’t return to an NBA roster until the Brooklyn Nets signed him six months later in the organization’s first “Markinson” summer. Bret Brielmaier, a Cavs assistant who the Nets had just hired, recommended him.

It’s worked out. Not only has Harris had a career season in 2017-18, which followed a career year in 2016-17, but the four-year shooting guard dropped a personal best 30 points against those same Cavaliers on Sunday.

“No, not really (a revenge game) because we’ve played against them multiple times this year,” he said afterward. “I know all those guys so it’s fun to go out there and compete against them but definitely not a revenge game.

“I just got in a rhythm early,” he added. “We were moving the ball well and I was able to get room and rhythm looks right off the get-go, knocked down my first couple, and then it just felt good after that. I was a little more aggressive hunting into shots.”

So he says.

Harris’ previous career-high was 21 points set on December 29, 2017 against the Miami Heat, the only 20-point game of his career prior to Sunday, where Harris shot 11-of-14 from the floor, 6-of-7 from three and 2-of-2 on free throws in 27 minutes off the bench.

It reads as a revenge game for the University of Virginia alum, who also had seven rebounds, but he didn’t see it that way, probably because the Nets lost 121-114.

This season, Harris is averaging double-digits for the first time in his NBA life, scoring 10.5 points per game while cementing himself as one of the Nets’ core players and primary weapons off the bench.

Earlier this season he’s even discussed a personal goal of shooting 40% from three, which would place him in elite-NBA company by season’s end, he says. After another slow start, Harris is now at 41.1% from three this season, where only eight games remain on schedule.

“That’s just a personal goal of mine,” Harris said at training camp in the Naval Academy back in late September. “I hovered around 38 and 39 percent last year. If you look at all the top shooters in the NBA, guys that might be specialists — like how I see myself as a good shooter and specialist — they’re always 40 percent and above. So that’s a personal goal for me to get into that elite three-point shooting percentage.”

Toward the first quarter’s conclusion in what eventually became a Net loss, Brooklyn led 29-26 with only seconds to go. DeMarre Carroll lost an oncoming LeBron James at the perimeter, leaving only Harris (and Dante Cunningham) standing between the King and the rim.

The ending went as expected …

It was an instant poster.

After that, however, Harris really begin to thrive, ending the first half with 20 points. As for the play itself, Kenny Atkinson said Harris’ response is a testament to his toughness.

“Joe’s a football player,” Atkinson said with a dash of humor. “He’s just a tough dude. Things like that don’t rattle him. He’s an elite competitor. He’s a ‘move on to the next play’ type of guy; a next-play mentality. (He) doesn’t get rattled by much, it just shows what a tough competitor he is to come back and play the game he played.”

Did it motivate Harris? Not necessarily, but he managed to momentarily diverge away from his serious demeanor and have fun when asked.

“(Big laugh) … oh yeah that really juiced me up,” Harris, red-faced with laughter, said sarcastically. “I was laughing about it. I should’ve just gotten out of the way.”

A reminder that he does have some personality.