Two under-the-radar players who surfaced after the first week of Nets training camp are guard Joe Harris and 7-foot center/forward Justin Hamilton, coach Kenny Atkinson said after Monday’s practice.
Both have less than two seasons of NBA experience and exemplify the kind of opportunistic free agents the Nets have recruited to an organization with only five players returning from last season.
Harris spent parts of two seasons with Cleveland but played only five games last season. He underwent foot surgery in January. “Joe Harris has been a bit of a surprise,” Atkinson said. “Obviously, I liked him when he played in Cleveland. He comes from a strong defensive program at Virginia with Tony Bennett. Trajan [Langdon, the Nets’ assistant general manager] knew him from being in Cleveland, so that helps. We don’t know if it’s a surprise or he’s just getting an opportunity. He fits our style of play.”
Hamilton totaled 49 NBA games over two seasons with three franchises before heading to Spain last season to play for Valencia in the ACB league, considered one of the best professional leagues other than the NBA. Despite his size, Hamilton developed a solid three-point shot in Spain that he put on display at the Nets’ open scrimmage Saturday at LIU Brooklyn.
“Justin Hamilton hit four threes at the end of the scrimmage,” Atkinson said. “Here’s a guy that was playing in Valencia, the ACB. I went over to watch him play so I got a feel. I’ve been watching him for a couple years now. You keep an eye on those guys that are playing well in the big leagues over there. It’s another way of finding players. He’s been another surprise. I’m so happy with his play so far.”
Until the Nets can begin to replenish their roster through the draft, they have to be creative in finding players who can contribute. “This is what we, as an organization, were thinking about guys like that [who] need another opportunity and that fit our style of play,’’ Atkinson said. “We’ve got to look under every rock.”