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February 1st, 2010

Harris Straining to Return

After four post-practice media sessions this week, Devin Harris has this drill down pat.

No, he doesn't know if he'll be playing tomorrow. Yes, he feels better than yesterday. Yes, his pain-free shooting range has been extended a bit further. Yes, he's anxious to get back and yes, it's frustrating to watch two straight close losses knowing that the threat of his offense would help in the final minutes.

Harris has missed four straight games after aggravating a right wrist strain against the Warriors 10 days ago. But for the first time since sitting out, Harris looked fully fluid while working out post-practice with coaching associate Jim Sann. The Nets point guard drove for layups, took pullups and also outside shots, snapping his follow-through with nary a wince.

Harris even messed around with a post-up into a lefty hook the shot he'd taken most often while resting his shooting hand the first few days. Antsy for activity, Harris had to do something. Similarly, though he knows that while pain-free shooting is what will get him back on the court, he'll stay there (and make his quickest contributions) by finding something to do every second he's out there.

"Weve increased our halfcourt defense tremendously, but were still struggling in transition," Harris said. "Offensively and defensively I dont think weve pushed the ball as much as I think that we could. But those are things I think that I can affect personally, especially on the offensive end, pushing the tempo a little bit.

"Defensively, were keying in on our schemes and really executing the things that we want to do. Big guys are stepping up, challenging shots, the guards are helping those guys out by being back. The things that weve been working on in practice, now are transferring into games."

The numbers back him up: in the last three games, the Nets' defense is unquestionably improved, allowing only 83.6 PPG on .401 shooting. That follows an 11-game losing streak that included eight opposing 100-plus point performances and 10 double-digit losses. Coach and GM Kiki Vandeweghe discussed how Harris' speed changes the game by itself, and is confident the point guard will fluidly transition into the team-wide defensive success.

Harris can most likely accomplish that by helping in transition (the Nets gave up 25 fast-break points on Sunday), and the PG jumping on board will allow the Nets to build on this mini-run of defensive momentum. Vandeweghe believes that team confidence will begin to compound.

"Theyve got to see theyre playing better on the defensive end," Vandeweghe said. "Theyre working, theyre trying. We had a bad third quarter, and our defense kept us in the game; I think the guys see that youve got to build on that. I know we didnt get the result we wanted, because we ended up losing at the end, but we were there at the end with a chance to win because of our defense."

Yet the players are grounded, and realize this is but a three-game stretch, one that will need to be replicated repeatedly before taking hold.

"I wouldnt necessarily say weve turned a corner," said swingman Jarvis Hayes. "But were obviously making some positive steps defensively. Its a start."

Hayes has Confidence
Twice in the last two games, the Nets have drawn up final-minute plays with the intention of freeing Jarvis Hayes for three-pointers. He managed to let fly both times, but each shot fell short, masking productive minutes.

But don't think for a second he'll hesitate if his number's called again.

You'll be ready if you get another chance tomorrow?

"Oh, yeah!" Hayes affirmed, nodding. "Oh yeah. Oh yeah yeah. Yeah yeah yeah yeah. Yeah. Most definitely."

New role for CD-R?
Swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts posted a tweet earlier today that indicated he'll be coming off the bench going forward:

"CD-R is officially coming off the bench now!"

Could be interesting to see if this means more minutes at the 2, considering he's started every game this year at small forward. We'll find out more at shootaround tomorrow.

For more on the Nets, be sure to follow @netsbasketball on Twitter or visit our Fan Page on Facebook.

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