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Nets need new-look Joe Harris to maintain on-court identity

Nets guard Joe Harris shoots during preseason camp

Nets guard Joe Harris shoots during preseason camp at the HSS Training Center on Wednesday. Credit: Errol Anderson

The new, full-blown beard is the first thing you notice about Joe Harris since he graduated from former G Leaguer to the proud possessor of a two-year deal worth $16 million and a regular role with the Nets as a dynamic scorer off the bench. All Harris needs is a flannel shirt and an axe, and he could pass for a lumberjack.

The new look has attracted the attention of his teammates, to say the least. When a reporter asked if anyone had called him “Wolverine,” Harris said he hadn’t heard that one yet, but he added, “’Moses’ is a pretty good one. ‘Joey Moses, Joseph of Nazarene.’ It’s a lot of religious references.”

Whether he sticks with the hirsute look or goes back to his clean-shaven appearance, the Nets need Harris to maintain his on-court identity as “Joey Buckets.” Harris averaged 10.8 points last season, shot .419 percent from three-point range and led the league just ahead of LeBron James on shooting percentage on drives to the rim at .627.

Of all the players who have developed in two years under coach Kenny Atkinson, Harris is the first to receive a multi-year contract extension. Unlike two seasons ago when the Nets’ roster was a collection of fringe players, Harris is part of a deep backcourt that includes likely starters D’Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe along with proven backups Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert and Shabazz Napier.

“Now our depth is 1-through-15,” Harris said. “There’s depth at almost every single position, so it’s one of those things where it certainly is an iron-sharpens-iron sort of situation where everybody is just making each other better.”

The Nets had Sunday off, but through the first week of training camp, Atkinson has experimented with multiple lineups. Because he’s a solid 6-6 and 219 pounds, Harris has shown he can shift to the small forward and even power forward positions.

“Coach has been playing around with different lineups,” Harris said. “It’s not uncommon for him to go four guards or have Shabazz and Spencer out there at the same time. When you have guards that are versatile, it just makes it a lot easier in terms of who you put on the court.”

Last season, Harris said his goal was to hit 40 percent from three-point range to join the elite level, and he surpassed that and maximized his driving skills. Now, his goal is consistency.

“A lot of it is about making the correct read,” Harris said. “I’m really trying to take that from the level I was last year to get in the elite category.”

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