As Scott Cacciola recounts in Tuesday’s Times, Joe Harris is from a small down in Washington State’s Cascade Range. A transplant in the hippest of New York’s boroughs who is very much unlike his teammates. He walks to work at HSS Training Center, takes the subway to Barclays Center.
And despite his celebrity in the NBA as one of the game’s outside shooters, he doesn’t get much attention when on the street, his cap pulled over his head and bundled up against the cold.
“Most of the time, I blend in,” he told Cacciola. “I kind of look like I work in a Brooklyn coffee shop.”
Anonymity may suit Harris, but once in his black-and-whites, the 6’6” 27-year-old is someone who teammates look up to, not just for his prowess beyond the arc but because he is symbolic of the roster, a castoff who was dumped by two teams in one day and was out of work for six months before Kenny Atkinson told him the Nets wanted him to be “our Kyle Korver.”
“I almost look at Joe as one of the poster boys for the Brooklyn Nets,” the veteran DeMarre Carroll said. “He came in, wasn’t really guaranteed his first year, got on the team, worked his butt off. Each year, he’s gotten better; his numbers, his play, his confidence proves it.”
And now, he’s third in the NBA in three-point shooting and hoping to join the game’s elite at the three-point shooting contest next month at the All-Star Game in Charlotte. No final word yet.
His coach knows his value though. No need for validation from those who big the contestants.
“His story is about opportunity and development on a team starting to improve,” Coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Given where he came from, it’s a romantic story, a beautiful story. Everything about him — his humility, the fact that he rides the subway everywhere — is why everybody loves Joe.”
Rabid Nets fans know his story well and note as well how every year his numbers improve. He’s shooting 46.4 percent from beyond the arc this season, up from 41.9 last season and 38.5 in his first season with Brooklyn. So has his scoring average as Harris improved other elements of his game and became the starter at shooting guard.
He fits the Nets mold in another way as well. He sacrificed for the team in July by accepting the Nets offer of $16 million over two years, below market value then and now way below.
A gym rat from the time he was nine, the son of a coach, Harris remains humble. As Atkinson says, “We want him to shoot more bad shots because he’s such a great shooter, but he won’t because he’s such a good guy.”
As the Nets succeed, Harris may find himself getting more attention on those walks and subway rides.