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Joe Harris’ evolved shooting and growing confidence to play big role with Nets

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Washington Wizards v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

When Joe Harris re-signed with the Brooklyn Nets, Sean Marks noted how the 29-year-old “has epitomized what it means to be a Net” ... “improved every season” ... “worked diligently” ... “an excellent teammate.”

And yes, he can shoot. No NBA player with a thousand or more 3-point attempts over the last three years has shot better than Joey Buckets.

Now, with his new deal, worth $72 million over the next four years, signed, sealed and delivered, Harris is giving us us a preview of what’s next in his evolved shooting.

In the Nets’ final preseason game against the Washington Wizards, Harris showcased some new weapons in his shooting arsenal. The Nets wing hit a series of contested, catch-and-shoot, and off-the-dribble three’s (most of which came feet behind the three-point line). That certainly caught the eyes of his teammates and coaches.

Harris explained how with teams adapting defensively and closing the air space along the arc, the distance between shooter and basket as well as the position of the shot is a growing concern for sharpshooters across the league. The 29-year-old understands the value of those shots.

“I think anytime you are playing against a good team or a good defensive team, across the board in this league, that is how teams are trying to play guys,” Harris said. “Their length, athleticism, and the ability to cover ground, you have to stretch the floor in different areas.

“For a shooter like myself, it is even inching back a little further. It seems like every year I’ve been in the league, people are shooting deeper and deeper three’s. I think a lot of that has to do with just how teams are adapting defensively, closing gaps, and then also closing that air space too. If you are too close to that line jogging up space on the weak side, you are not going to be able to get open looks. I think we have to take those shots that we get that are room and rhythm looks, open shots, and I think a lot of times, those deep points or those quick ones in transition.”

Following Friday’s preseason win over the Boston Celtics, Durant explained how those shots are needed, whether the results in makes or misses. So, the Nets superstar he wants the Nets shooting star to continue to grow his confidence with those long bombs.

“When you have a guy that can create offense for you before we even draw a play or even before we cross half court, it is always good to get some early offense and Joe - when guys are trotting back in transition to the other end of the basket on the other side of the floor, he is sprinting trying to find the open area and try to get good shots,” Durant said about Harris.

“Some of those shots he’s took tonight, we’ll need more of those. The tough quick catch-and-shoot three’s and that might throw the defense off balance. You know, sometimes they might miss some of those shots and may look like bad ones but we need him to get those up and build that confidence because when we want to win big games, we are going to need Joe to hit some of those big shots.”

As Durant noted how Harris’ 3-point shooting can throw the defense off-balance, Steve Nash told reporters that he’s on the same page. The Nets rookie head coach and the Nets coaching staff refers to his defensive attraction as “gravity.”

“We call it gravity - the defense is always going to gravitate towards him, which will open up space for playmakers. When he is making shots, that is even more deadly. He is a shot-maker,” Nash said of Harris. “An elite shooter and shoots a high percentage - but even nights where he doesn’t make shots, he creates gravity for his teammates.”

Outside of Harris’ lethal shooting from beyond the arc, Nash likes the pace he uses when on the hardwood, from his movement off-the-ball to his shooting ability, Nash is glad he is a Net.

“His pace has been excellent. He plays at a fast pace, which makes the defense make quick decisions because he is running around, coming off screens, getting rid of the ball quickly, and then willing to shoot quick shots. I think it is a great weapon for us and we are lucky to have a guy with that shooting ability.”

Then there is Kyrie Irving, one of the few players who got the chance to witness Harris’ origin of growth in the NBA. The Nets superstar played with Harris in Cleveland, recalling him as “just regular Joe.”

“When we first got Joe in Cleveland, he was just regular Joe then,” Irving joked. “Now, that he’s got a tattoo on his arm, he’s got long hair, and still shooting the crap out of the ball - Joe is still the same except he has evolved as a basketball thinking player. I think he’s grown tremendously within this Nets organization, giving him the opportunity to grow and make mistakes. Now, to be able to play at this level - I feel like he’s ready for it.”

Irving, like Durant, wants Joe to continue to grow his confidence shooting those three’s well beyond the arc. Harris has the support of his teammates to continue to grow that confidence level and his teammates have a good feeling every time he shoots the ball, it is likely to go in.

“I’m nothing but proud of Joe. I’m excited to continue to play with him and develop with him. He’s a flamethrower, man. Anywhere you throw it at any point, I feel like it has a great chance of going in. We want to continue to give him confidence and make sure he knows that we support and believe in him.“

When asked about adjustments from shooting a couple of inches to a foot or two behind the arc, Harris said it is all about the positioning of his legs.

“To be honest, it is all mechanically the same,” Harris said. “I think maybe those deeper ones probably more so in the second half, third, and fourth quarter - you are going to have to be mindful of your legs and getting your legs a little more into the shot.”

In short, “bombs away.”