Joe Harris knows the Nets, knows the NBA, knows his place in both and he also knows his body. Now at 31 and coming off two ankle surgeries in the last 18 months, he knows something else: his time as a professional basketball player is, in his words, “at a crossroads.”
In talking with Andrew Crane of the Post, Harris offered a candid appraisal of his present and future. He knows he is not and will not be the same player he was when he twice led the league in 3-point shooting and beat Steph Curry in the 3-point shootout at the All-Star Game.
“You get used to playing a certain way for sure, but Mother Time is undefeated,” Harris told The Post on Wednesday. “And it’s like I’m not getting any younger. I’m not getting more athletic, more nimble. I obviously have certain skillsets that allow me to play, but there’s a lot of other factors that go into it.”
The interview was timely. Harris’ minutes are decreasing. He dropped out of the starting lineup after the trade deadline and his minutes are going down. He played 14 minutes vs. the Knicks, following seven minutes vs. the Bucks and six vs. the Hawks. He hasn’t broken 30 minutes since January 28.
Harris is decidedly not giving up and he did twice hit six three’s in a game over the last month. He believes those “other factors” offer opportunities for him to continue playing at a high level when called on. The game has become more mental.
“I just am not the same player that I was two, three years ago,” Harris said, describing himself as a “second-unit-sort-of-player.
“It’s not to say that I’m less of a player, but I just have to kind of evolve and figure it out,” he said. Among the things he has to do, the told Crane, was create more of a rhythm and flow for himself now that he’s not playing with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He also has to be more mindful of his body.
“Especially when you’re younger, you’re able to bounce back from different stuff a lot easier,” Harris said. “Now for me, I know I’m not as old as some guys in the league, but if something happens to me in the game where maybe I tweak my back or something happens to one of my knees, to me it feels like it takes a little bit longer in that recovery process.”
He also another issue to deal with. Jacque Vaughn and the front office have to see what they’ve got in their four new players: Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson. Depending on how you see DFS, two or three of the newcomers play the same type of game he has ... as do a number of other players on the wing-heavy roster. How he fits, at 31, may not be known this season.
Of course, there is the issue of his contract. A “second-unit-type-of player” doesn’t warrant the $19.9 million he will earn next season, the fourth and final year of a $75 million deal he signed back in November 2020. Left unsaid in the interview was how the Nets front office views his future. In reality, they simply may not know yet.
He says he doesn’t want his ego to drive how his relationship with the game and Vaughn says “He is the soldier every night that’ll do what it takes.”
Harris is still one of the top 10 3-point shooters in the game this season and is top five all-time. The Nets roster is in flux, to be kind, and what his role — and his address — will be next season remains uncertain as does a lot of the roster dynamics. Not only is Harris at the crossroads. So is his team.
- Nets’ Joe Harris at career crossroads as minutes keep decreasing - Andrew Crane - New York Post