LAS VEGAS — If the Nets were going to make a blueprint for their development program or if they were going to put up a billboard advertising it, they would start with Joe Harris as the prime example of the opportunity for success in their organization. That’s why it was imperative to sign him as soon as possible when he hit free agency on July 1.
Within half an hour, the Nets reached agreement with Harris on a two-year deal worth $16 million. It was for more money than most expected he would receive but also a shorter term than he could have gotten elsewhere.
In the end, it was a deal that reflected how much the Nets wanted Harris and how much he wanted to remain with the organization led by general manager Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson.
“I reiterated to my agent [Mark Bartelstein] from the get-go and to Kenny and Sean that I wanted to be in Brooklyn however we could get that done,” Harris said after attending the Nets’ Summer League game Monday night. “The years weren’t the biggest thing for me. It was more about going to a place where I felt extremely comfortable. Kenny and Sean and the comfortability I have with them and the belief I have in them and the direction of the organization ultimately is why I wanted to be back in Brooklyn.”
Two years ago, there was doubt whether Harris would have much of an NBA career. He averaged single-digit minutes over 56 games in his first two years with the Cavaliers. But in his first season with the Nets, Harris averaged 8.2 points in 22 minutes per game, and last season, he improved to 10.8 points and a .419 three-point shooting percentage in 25 minutes per game.
In addition, Harris led the NBA ahead of LeBron James in field-goal percentage on drives, and he had an effective field-goal percentage of .612 when factoring in the value of his three-point shooting.
“The way I looked at it was that other teams might think they know my game or how I play and my approach to things, but I’ve been with Brooklyn the past two years day in and day out,” Harris said. “They know my game the best. I felt comfortable coming back and playing on a team with good young talent where we feel like we are moving in the right direction.”
Marks said he polled several players at the end of the season, and it was unanimous that Harris should return. D’Angelo Russell went as far as to say that the 26-year-old Harris taught him how to be a professional. “This is definitely the most close-knit team I’ve been a part of,” Harris said. “I imagine part of it is we’re a younger team and I’m kind of oddly more of a veteran guy on this team. I kind of fell into that role where I guess my approach, which I adopted in Cleveland — trying to be as punctual and professional and detail-oriented as I could — carried over in Brooklyn.”
Harris said he learned how to maximize his strengths, and ultimately, he believes that approach will help all of the Nets individually and as a group.
“Each of us have really improved these last couple of years,” Harris said. “We’re all looking at it in the sense of the team trying to take that next step. We lost 26 games by [eight] points or less. I think a lot of the experience we had with that is going to help us grow. It’s helped us grow this offseason and it’s going to help us grow going into this season.”