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It’s not all about COVID. Nets are waiting on Joe Harris, too

Chicago Bulls v Brooklyn Nets Photo by David L. Nemec/NBAE via Getty Images

While the Nets wait on 10 of their players to clear health and safety protocols, they’re also on hold for Joe Harris. He hasn’t played since November 14, going under the knife 15 days later for his left ankle. At the time, the prognosis was that he’d be back in four to eight weeks, with some optimism that he’d be back closer to four.

There’s been no word from the Nets on his progress. He has been seen on the bench and on the sidelines riding an exercise bike.

As Matthew Roberson of the Daily News writes Tuesday, Brooklyn misses their sharpshooter ... bad.

Harris has not played since Nov. 14, missing the Nets’ last 16 games. In the span of those 16 games, Brooklyn has gone from one of the most high-functioning three-point shooting teams in the league — as well as one of its best in key advanced statistics — to severely below average.

The team has kept winning, and has actually seen upticks in both offensive rating and points per game, thanks in large part to Kevin Durant being Kevin Durant. But the troubling numbers lie beyond the arc, where the Nets rank 28th in three-point percentage (31.4%) and 28th in three-point makes per game (9.6) since Harris went out. When he was playing, they were first (39.3%) and fifth (13.9) in those categories. With Durant now added to the COVID infirmary, the list of capable shooters on the team’s active roster is dwindling faster than their shooting percentages.

That’s a long way from when Harris was in the lineup. He was among the league leaders in 3-point shooting, both this season and all-time. All-time, he’s fourth in 3-point percentage, barely behind Seth Curry, 44.0 percent to 43.9 percent. And he holds the all-time franchise record for both 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage, besting Jason Kidd on one, Drazen Petrovic on the other.

Patty Mills, as Roberson writes, has stepped up big time to fill that void.

The Australian sparkplug is enjoying the best shooting year of his career, and it ain’t close. Now in his 13th year in the league, Mills is taking and making more threes than ever before. His 43.0% clip from three-point land is a minor jump from his single-season high of 42.9% in 2011-12, but he was only taking 3.5 per game then. This year he’s chucking 7.4 a night. The term “unsung hero” has followed Mills like a vulture since he was a championship-winning role player for the Spurs, but now it’s time to make sure his praises are sung from Park Slope to Perth.

There are others who might help among the kids and the most recently signed, Roberson adds. Kessler Edwards is shooting 41.2 percent so far in his rookie year — about what he shot at Pepperdine, but Roberson argues that number is “prime for regression as he gets more playing time.” Langston Galloway, he adds, has been a near 40 percent shooter in his eight-year career. (He’s less optimistic about Cam Thomas who’s shooting 22.8 percent, and Jevon Carter who’s well below his career numbers at 30.5 percent.)

A Harris return, particularly in conjunction with a comeback by Kyrie Irving, could be a big help for Brooklyn and their superstars. January can’t come too soon.