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Nets’ Joe Harris in limbo as minutes keep decreasing

For the first time in 14 games, Joe Harris disappeared from the Nets’ starting lineup. It was Feb. 9, the day of the NBA trade deadline, and head coach Jacque Vaughn met with Harris in the locker room to share his tweak.

There wasn’t necessarily a set script, but Vaughn told Harris the Nets would need lineup fluidity after trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Harris understood, too. He knew at age 31, in his ninth season, minutes would start to decrease. His role would start to change. It’s a stage in everyone’s career, but the guard knew there were names scattered across NBA history who came off the bench and produced despite small windows.

Harris hasn’t been in the starting lineup since Feb. 7, two days before the Bulls game. He might not play until the second quarter some nights, Vaughn said, and that happened Wednesday against the Knicks when Harris had six points in 14 minutes. He has one year remaining on his contract worth more than $19.9 million. He dealt with a significant ankle injury last season. His minutes and points averages — 23.2 and 8.2 — are at the lowest levels of his career since 2017-18 and 2016-17, respectively.

And amid this string of uncertainty for the Nets, who were crushed by the Knicks, 142-118, Harris has also started approaching a pivotal crossroads in his career.

Joe Harris shoots a jumper during the Nets' 142-118 loss to the Knicks.
Joe Harris shoots a jumper during the Nets’ 142-118 loss to the Knicks.
Robert Sabo for NY Post

“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 altered reality has forced an adjustment for Harris as a 3-point specialist. His production revolves around rhythm and flow. That means shooting — again and again, over and over. The game slows down when his stints lengthen, Harris said, and now, he needs to try and create that rhythm himself, which he called more of a mental obstacle.

His role has switched since he arrived for the 2016-17 season. Harris turned into another architect of the organization’s rebuild alongside Vaughn. He became a quasi-spokesman in the hours and days following the deadline. He’d seen a lot — something he admitted to reporters during a Feb. 9 press conference. He was the last man standing.

There was a phase when he started regularly for the Nets, really up until this season — when he returned from an injury that derailed his 2021-22 campaign. An ankle surgery and a setback limited him to 14 games. When he recovered, he needed to acclimate again to a full NBA schedule. Harris knew in the preseason that averaging 30 minutes like he had in his prime wasn’t likely. He hoped to get between 20 and 25. That would signal progress.

“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.”

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Joe Harris (left) slaps hands with Cameron Thomas during the Nets' loss.
Joe Harris (left) slaps hands with Cameron Johnson during the Nets’ loss.
NBAE via Getty Images

Recently, he has evolved into a “second-unit-sort-of-player,” he said. The Nets still don’t have a concrete rotation, so the amount of minutes a game could produce remains unknown each night. Harris doesn’t want to fall into the trap of becoming a guy who lets his “ego” detract from what naturally happens when players age, though.

“He is the soldier every night that’ll do what it takes,” Vaughn said.

Harris still has his bursts. He came off the bench and sank six 3s against the Bulls. He hit six more the next game. Harris knows he can still be a contributor on a good team, he said.

The role just might look a bit different.

“I just am not the same player that I was two, three years ago,” Harris said. “It’s not to say that I’m less of a player, but I just have to kind of evolve and figure it out.”

By: Ny Post



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