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The Survivor: Joe Harris talks about his time with Nets ... and the Bucks series

Brooklyn Nets All-Access Practice Photo by David L. Nemec/NBAE via Getty Images

James Herbert of CBS Sports wrote this week of Joe Harris, the longest-serving Net, the on-court constant and poster boy for the Nets development success, a castoff who was famously underwent surgery one morning in 2016 and came out of anesthesia only to find out he’d been traded and waived.

Herbert laid out the specifics of that six-year journey in a stream of numbers.

Eighty teammates later, Harris is 30, entering the second year of a four-year contract worth $72 million guaranteed. He is the only player in Brooklyn who has gone from playing off Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin under Kenny Atkinson to playing off Kevin Durant and James Harden under Steve Nash. He is the only player in Brooklyn who took 62 losses in Year 1 of the rebuild and 54 in Year 2. He is the only person in Brooklyn who was in the players-only meeting that precipitated the dramatic turnaround that led to the playoff berth in Year 3.

He is the Net who remains.

There are of course other numbers that tell his story. Over the past three years, he has the highest 3-point shooting percentage in the league, Twice in that three year span, he walked away with the small trophy the NBA gives the best 3-point shooter. He’s also won the 3-point shooting contest during that stretch, beating out Steph Curry. Indeed, he now holds the fourth highest 3-point percentage in NBA history, having moved past Drazen Petrovic last season. And when he hits his 13th three this season, he’ll move past Jason Kidd to become the most prolific deep shooter in Nets history, both in number of 3-pointers and percentage.

“It’s a pretty special thing just to be able to see the whole spectrum of it,” Harris told Herbert just before the season opened. He likes being “part of some foundational pillars and trying to establish good culture here, where it’s talked about through the NBA and you get veteran guys that want to come and be a part of it.”

Of course, he was one of the reasons that the Nets were attractive, a building block for a superteam. He still is. It’s not just the shooting. He’s only missed 16 games in the last four years. His opinion is trusted by his GM and head coach nearly as much as the team’s “Big Two” or “Big Three,” depending on vaccine status.

“I love living in Brooklyn,” Harris said. “I think even if I wasn’t playing here, I’d still live here. I mean, I love living in New York, and this is definitely my home. I loved the city even before I started playing here, but getting to experience it through these last six years, it’s just made me even have a greater appreciation for it, and I really just love, love living here.”

In fact, he told Herbert that if he wound up playing for another team, he’d probably retain his residence in Brooklyn. Of course, there were some fans who lobbied for moving him out of Brooklyn after his performance in the Bucks series last June. He didn’t shoot well, although his head coach has said he played well otherwise. Those numbers were not so good. He shot 8-of-33 in Games 3 through 7 and missed a wide open shot late in Game 7 that fans simply cannot forget. And some will not forgive.

“Of course, I wish I would have played better,” Harris says. “Shit, like, if I had played perfect, I’d be a f---ing All-Star player, we wouldn’t be having a conversation like this. But that’s not the reality of the matter. But what is the reality is that you try and get back to right now and focus on this.”

On Opening Night in Milwaukee, he hit 3-of-5 of his three’s, but only 3-of-9 overall. Joe being Joe, he also had two assists and two rebounds, skills his fans including his head coach, regularly note when talking of his overall game. Insiders often note that he’s much more complete player than two recently retired 3-point specialists, J.J. Redick and his new assistant coach, Kyle Korver.

As Herbert notes, Harris is back in his lab, the gym, doing the monotonous reps that everyone knows is crucial to keep improving. But he’s not beating himself up about what happened last June. (He noted on Media Day that his sister and his mother had already done a lot of that.)

“F**k, we’re all some of the most competitive people in the world,” he told Herbert. “I know the fans certainly care, but, like, sh*t, I’m the one that’s in here every single day of my life busting my ass to try to get to the point where we compete at the highest level and you get in those moments for big shots. I want to make those shots more than anything, you know? That’s why I come in here and I put in work every day.”

Herbert’s story includes a lot more introspection bordering on regret, but Harris is also the ultimate professional who understands the past is the past and new challenges await. Focus, focus, focus.

The Nets, of course, will need Harris more now that Kyrie Irving’s status remains uncertain. Players like him and Patty Mills will have to step up.

“I know that I’m not going to shoot perfect every game,” Harris says. “That’s just the reality of it. I hope to, for sure — I don’t want to ever miss a shot. But I know that the chances are, I mean, it’s going to happen.”