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Three-point threat Joe Harris thriving in new role off the Nets' bench

The Nets' Joe Harris reacts after making a

The Nets' Joe Harris reacts after making a 3-point basket during the first half against the 76ers on Thursday at Barclays Center. Credit: AP/Frank Franklin II

Joe Harris was the author of a franchise-record 69-game streak with at least one made three-pointer heading into the Nets’ game against the Grizzlies Friday night at FedEx Forum in Memphis. He has been a paragon of consistency and teamwork, and that never was more evident than in Thursday’s win over the 76ers at Barclays Center when Harris came off the bench to pour in 28 points with both superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving sitting out.

The Nets were without Durant (health and safety protocols), Irving (personal reasons) and Tyler Johnson (health and safety protocols) against the Grizzlies, but that just meant another opportunity to lean on such longtime core players as Harris, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen.

"There’s a number of guys on the roster who are familiar with playing with one another, and Jarrett and Caris obviously have the longest sort of standing relationship in terms of being able to sort of read each other, play off one another," Harris said. "It’s definitely helpful to have that regardless of people out or in. I think we play pretty well together."

Harris was part of a wholesale lineup change that first-year head coach Steve Nash made two games earlier after the Nets (5-4) had lost four of five games. Harris was one of three regular starters who moved to the bench for non-injury related reasons, but he accepted it and excelled in that role in two straight impressive wins.

"I talked to Steve the day before [Tuesday’s game against the Jazz], and he was transparent with me and I knew he wanted to change things up," Harris said. "It’s definitely better for the group. We’ve played a lot better these last two games. I have no problems with it whatsoever, and he made the right move for sure.

"Coming in on the second unit, guys are setting a lot of screens for me, telling me to be real aggressive, kind of provide an offensive spark. So, that’s sort of the mindset from the beginning of the game . . . It’s tough playing without such prominent players, but when we have a group that’s like this, we know we have to play together and move the ball, share the ball."

Two seasons ago, Harris led the NBA in three-point shooting percentage, and his franchise-record three-point streak shows he hasn’t lost his touch. He made 6 of 9 three-pointers against the 76ers and went into the Grizzlies game hitting an otherworldly 53.7% from three (29-for-54).

"This is my job," Harris said. "There’s other facets to my game where I can definitely play at an NBA level, but my main reason is my ability to shoot the ball and my ability to space the floor, be aggressive hunting shots. That’s my identity as a player, so I definitely take a lot of pride in that."

Harris’ performance against the 76ers especially was notable because they focused on doubling him on the three-point line and forcing him to pass or take contested shots in a 4-1 first-round playoff win over the Nets in 2019. "I wanted to go out there and prove my worth, prove how much I’ve improved going from [the 2019] playoffs, where I don’t think I played too good against them," Harris said. "In this game, I held my ground. So, I think it’s a good point where I can . . . see how good I’m getting."

How good is Harris now? Let Nash explain about a player the Nets signed to a four-year deal worth $72 million.

"Joe’s a stud," Nash said. "He makes shots, he makes plays, he battles physically, rebounds. He does a bit of everything. He’s not just a shooter. He makes his teammates better because of energy, effort and shotmaking."

New York Sports