According to conventional wisdom, a great three-point shooter such as Nets small forward Joe Harris should thrive in a lineup featuring superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving because the defensive attention they command should create space for Harris on the perimeter. But that’s not how it worked out in the Nets’ opening preseason win over the Wizards on Sunday.
Harris scored just four points on 2-for-5 shooting and missed the two three-point attempts he put up in 19 minutes. Durant and Irving combined for 21 of 35 shot attempts by the starters, and Harris also wound up minus-13 during his time on the floor.
Asked about the adjustment to the reduced number of touches he might get with Durant and Irving, Harris said, "Obviously, right now, those guys are our focal point offensively. That’s how we’re going to play our best basketball. That’s how we’re going to be most productive. I think across the board, a lot of other guys are going to have to adapt. Some games, we’re probably going to get a lot of looks when guys are collapsing on them. Other games, maybe not so much.
"But at the end of the day, for us to win and have the most success, our offense is going to go through those two guys, and then kind of go down from there. My main assignment as an offensive player is just trying to get space for those guys, getting down to deep corners, cutting off the ball, making sure that I’m occupying guys on the weak side and allowing them more space to facilitate."
Harris said the 119-114 win over the Wizards really wasn’t much of a measuring stick because they rested guards Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook as well as three-point shooter Davis Bertans. The Nets only have one more preseason game against the Celtics Friday in Boston to iron out the kinks before the season opener against Golden State on Tuesday night at Barclays Center.
Other changes are in the works under first-year coach Steve Nash that also might affect Harris. Spencer Dinwiddie started at shooting guard in place of Caris LeVert, who had a minor injury but since has returned to practice. Nash originally said LeVert might be used in a sixth-man role, but he later amended that thought to suggest he might rotate Dinwiddie, LeVert and Harris in the starting lineup at shooting guard and small forward alongside Durant, Irving and center DeAndre Jordan.
"I think that’s where we’re really fortunate just to have the depth that we have," Harris said. "You look at our second unit and a lot of those guys are arguably starters on a number of teams across this league. Whether it’s Caris, whoever it is, coming off of the bench . . . I don’t think you should look at it as a negative. In this league, you look across the best teams, they all have depth.
"Once the postseason comes around, big games come around, depth plays an important factor in being an elite team. That’s where we’re trying to get."
If it turns out that Dinwiddie and Harris are together in the starting lineup with Irving at point guard, chemistry should not be a problem because they have played together most of the past four seasons.
"Spencer is such a dynamic player just because of his ability to make shots, facilitate off of the dribble, his length and his athleticism," Harris said. "He is just a good piece off of somebody like Kyrie at guard, where you have two dynamic ballhandlers that can create for others and create for themselves pretty easily as well. If we’re getting out in transition and we have either one of those guys bringing up the ball, good things are bound to happen."