When Joe Harris joined the Nets in 2016 after being released by the Cavaliers five games into his second season, his NBA career was hanging by a thread. But he not only found a home in Brooklyn and developed into one of the top three-point shooters in the league, he became a symbol of the Nets’ culture emphasizing growth and development.
On Monday, Harris put pen to paper on a four-year deal worth $72 million that seemed unimaginable when he first arrived. But as general manager Sean Marks said in a statement announcing the deal, "Joe has epitomized what it means to be a Net."
Harris actually reached agreement after 6 p.m. ET on Sunday when signings were permitted, and though interest in him around the league drove his value up to twice his previous annual salary, he said in a video news conference on Tuesday that he never really looked anywhere else because he enjoys the familiarity with the Nets’ organization.
"It played a huge role," Harris said. "You definitely cannot take that for granted. I was allowed an opportunity here. . . . It meant a lot to me to come back to a place where I was familiar with, having coaches, front office, teammates that all believe in you and value you. That played a critical role in why I wanted to come back to Brooklyn again.
"I didn’t even necessarily give a ton of thought to leaving. You still have to take your self-interest as the No. 1 priority, so, you have to entertain other options, but at the end of the day, my No. 1 priority was also to try and come back to Brooklyn."
One major reason Harris returned is because he has seen the Nets grow from a 20-win team in his first season to becoming a destination for superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. He got to play a bit with Irving last season, but Durant sat out while rehabbing a torn Achilles tendon. So, Harris is excited to finish the job under first-year head coach Steve Nash.
He has started at small forward, so, it’s likely Durant will play power forward on a starting unit with Irving and Caris LeVert at the guard positions and either DeAndre Jordan or Jarrett Allen at center. But Nash and assistant Mike D’Antoni figure to install a high-speed, free-flowing offense like the one D’Antoni coached the past four seasons with the Rockets.
"It probably will be positionless," Harris said. "Steve has been around a lot, but we haven’t really dived into guys specifically and their roles and how he envisions that."
Harris had to leave the NBA bubble in August in Orlando because his grandmother passed away. After spending time with his family in Washington state, he spent the rest of his offseason in Brooklyn near the training facility rather than joining Durant, Irving and several other Nets for workouts in Los Angeles.
"They still came into Brooklyn periodically," Harris said of Durant and Irving. "Kevin looks great in terms of coming back from the injury, and I’ve heard the same with Ky [who underwent shoulder surgery]. We’re fortunate, in a sense, they were able to have a longer offseason. It allowed them time to recover and get healthy, and hopefully, that will translate to a great season.
"As a group, we obviously have big aspirations and goals. We know it is a long road to where we want to go, and it is about trying to get better, build that continuity, build that chemistry. But at the end of the road, we definitely have championship aspirations, and we would be fooling ourselves if we said we didn’t."