On a roster depleted by injuries, illness and opt-out decisions, two Nets who figure to play expanded roles when the NBA season resumes later this month in Orlando are forward Joe Harris and center Jarrett Allen.
Despite his pending free-agent status, three-point marksman Harris had no problem opting in, and though Allen lost his starting job to DeAndre Jordan just before the season was interrupted for the COVID-19 pandemic, he regained it when Jordan tested positive for the virus and opted out of the re-start.
Harris and Allen each expressed their eagerness to return when they spoke to reporters in a video conference on Thursday. “It’s obviously stuff you have to think about and discuss, but it wasn’t a difficult decision for me,” Harris said. “I’m healthy. I’m going to play and finish out the season…We have eight [regular-season] games left. I wouldn’t take the last eight games of the season off just to get ready for free agency.”
Harris remained in Brooklyn when the season paused on March 11 because his mother was staying at his apartment while receiving medical care for cancer.
“I was a little worried to be around her…given the uncertainties around corona and how it affects people with compromised immune systems,” Harris said. “That [was] definitely the worst period. Thankfully, she is doing well from a health standpoint right now.”
Like the other 21 NBA teams taking part in the “bubble” at Disney World in Orlando, the Nets are entering uncharted waters, but Harris and Allen are confident in the health protocols. “Whether people want to give it an asterisk or not, I don’t really know if that matters,” Harris said. “We’re trying to go forward in a healthy way, a safe way. Who knows what happens when we’re actually all down there? Across the league, the sentiment with a lot of guys is just the excitement to get back playing. However it finishes up for us, I don’t think there will be an asterisk in our book.”
The Nets currently are seeded seventh in the Eastern Conference, just half a game ahead of the eighth-place Magic but six games ahead of the ninth-place Wizards for the final playoff berth. Allen must play a critical role with Jordan out of the lineup along with rookie center Nic Claxton, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. “I wish DeAndre the best,” Allen said. “I want him to get healthy and recover well. For me, I’ve been in this position before. My rookie year, I was the main ‘big’ playing, and last year when Ed [Davis] got hurt [in the playoffs], I had the load. I just need to come out and prove that I can play at this level again.
“There is some pressure. I don’t want to say I’m the last ‘big’ standing, but there is some pressure for me to be able to stay healthy and help the team succeed.”
Allen also remained in Brooklyn when the NBA paused. During that time, the Black Lives Matter protest movement swept the nation, and Allen said he took part in a march on the Juneteenth holiday.
“We went across the Brooklyn Bridge,” Allen said. “It was an empowering march. It was great to see that not only was it African-Americans and Black people, but it was predominantly white. It was great to see we had a lot of allies on our side.”
Heading to Orlando, Allen expressed faith in his depleted team.
“We don’t have near half our team,” Allen said. “But I think we can go out there and do what Brooklyn has been known to do when faced with adversity – play our hardest and play with a bunch of grit.”