For all the Nets who wondered what the experience would be like when they finally took the court with a healthy Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the answer came during the first full-team practice of training camp on Sunday. For Joe Harris, who was part of the rebuild that began with a 20-win team four years ago but recently received a contract extension to be part of an NBA title contender, it was a thrill.
"First and foremost, they are two of the best offensive players that have been in this game since they’ve been in the league, and that hasn’t changed," Harris said in a video news conference. "The way they looked today was sharp.
"The [most important] part of this offseason was for them to get healthy, and they definitely are. They look great, and they put so much pressure on the defense because of how talented they are and how they are able to exploit their individual matchups. But they’re also smart, heady players. They make the right decisions, they make the right plays, and that’s good for guys like myself."
The Nets’ 15-man roster is one of the deepest in the league. Harris said first-year head coach Steve Nash mixed up the lineups rather than putting the first unit against the reserves.
"This was definitely probably the highest-level intrasquad scrimmaging I’ve ever been a part of," Harris said. "We have a lot of really talented players … The games are ultracompetitive.
"You look across this team, and we have so many guys that are good with the ball in the half-court. And we have a lot of players who are good without it, too."
Harris named himself, Taurean Prince and Landry Shamet plus centers DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen as complementary players who can move without the ball. Then Durant, Irving, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie can create for others with the ball in their hands.
Of course, the first practice also gave the Nets a sample of what to expect from Nash, who was a Hall of Fame point guard over 18 seasons. Shamet said Nash has a "laid-back" style but commands attention with his "intense and pointed" comments.
Describing the collaborative approach Nash is expected to employ, Shamet said: "They’re going to give us the framework, and we have to paint inside that framework. So a lot of freedom. He’s learning us just like we’re learning him and each other."
Shamet scrimmaged with Durant and Irving during recent workouts in Los Angeles. During his first two seasons, Shamet played with 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and spent last season with Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Both those teams had chemistry problems, but Shamet likes his early sense of the Nets.
"With this team, everyone is kind of coming in on the same page," Shamet said. "It’s been made very clear what our goal is. After the first day of us all being together, you just feel it. Chemistry and the vibe is all a feel, and it feels really good here. I’m happy to be here."
Harris had other opportunities as a free agent, but he accepted a four-year deal worth $72 million to remain with the Nets because he is invested in the organization and the push to win a title.
"A couple years ago when we were looking at ourselves, obviously, you have to be realistic about your expectations," Harris said. "You hope to get to a place where you say, ‘Hey, we have talent across the board, we’ve got the right pieces in place … where we should be expected to compete for a championship.’ From my perspective, it’s pretty awesome to be here, and it’s special to be a part of something like that."