Brooklyn Nets Summer League: Joe Harris Has Found a Home in Brooklyn

LAS VEGAS — What would Joe do?

Turns out Joe Harris did just what he said he wanted to do all along, which probably shouldn’t have been much of a surprise.

With every 3-pointer splashing through the nets, his shooting percentage ascending steadily while the rest of his game grew and flourished, speculation rose during the 2017-18 season that the Brooklyn Nets’ bet on Harris two summers ago was paying off almost too well – to the point that the team might not be able to retain the sharpshooting swingman when his contract expired at the end of the season.

All along, every time he was asked, Harris made it clear his hope was to be back in Brooklyn. It was the same thing he was saying behind the scenes with GM Sean Marks and coach Kenny Atkinson.

And when free agency began, Harris quickly agreed on a reported two-year, $16 million deal to remain a Net. On Monday night, he was courtside at Cox Pavilion, still a Net, taking in the franchise’s Summer League game against the Minnesota Timberwolves with his teammates.

“I had told my agent, Kenny and Sean and everybody in the organization that although I was going to be an unrestricted free agent, Brooklyn was where I wanted to come back to,” said Harris. “I felt most comfortable playing for Kenny, playing in an organization led by Sean and what they both have built. With what they’ve instilled, I felt culturally, philosophically we were on the same page and definitely aligned that way.”

The feeling was mutual, as Atkinson and Marks had both said during the season, and why not? Harris averaged career highs in points (10.8), rebounds (3.3), assists (1.6) field goal percentage (49.1), free throw percentage (82.7) and 3-point field goal percentage (41.9). His improvement accelerated steadily over his time in Brooklyn as he shot 46.7 percent from 3-point range over his final 44 games of the season.

And for Harris, the comfort level extended off the court and away from Barclays Center or HSS Training Center.

‘You’re living in an amazing place,” said Harris. “You’re playing in the Barclays Center, you’re playing in front of great fans. It’s tough to beat that. I think Brooklyn is easily one of the best NBA cities out there. It’s hard to compete with everything that Brooklyn has to offer as a city. I know that and I’ve really enjoyed just being there the last couple of years.”

So that’s where he’s spent a big chunk of his summer. Harris’ faith extends beyond Atkinson and Marks to the team’s development and performance staff. He’s comfortable and confident in the plan they’ve put together for him over the last two years and wanted to stick with the program.

When not in Brooklyn, he’s been visiting London, where his long-time girlfriend is working through the end of the year, and he took a trip home to Chelan, Washington for his annual basketball camp.

“It’s sort of a reunion of sorts,” said Harris. “I get my entire family to come back and help out with it. A lot of my friends that I grew up with, friends that I played with in high school and college, everybody comes back for the camp every time. It’s awesome. It’s pretty much identical every year, second or third weekend of June right around the time that the kids get out of school. It’s a kindergarten through eighth-grade camp, two-day camp, usually over the weekend when it fits into everybody’s schedules. I try and spend at least a week out at home leading up to the camp every year.”

And in addition to joining his teammates in Las Vegas, he was on the team trip to California in May. Harris credited Jeremy Lin and DeMarre Carroll for their leadership in organizing some team activities away from their workouts during the trip.

“It’s a family-first organization and they want that to be noticeable in the organization with the players,” said Harris. “They don’t force anything on us. But guys, we tend to gravitate and want to hang out and be around each other. There’s good chemistry and continuity. Ultimately it’s going to help us be better. The teams that have got good continuity, good chemistry typically have more success.”

Continuity and consistency is something that Harris values. He’s tried to build his approach to his career around it, going back to his experience as a rookie on a veteran-heavy Cleveland team led by LeBron James. The diligence – building a routine, following through on it – is something he’s carried over to Brooklyn. And it’s what he believes will carry him to success going forward. It’s the kind of approach that younger teammates like D’Angelo Russell have noticed, seeing him as setting the same type of example that Harris sees from Lin and Carroll.

“It’s one thing for me to shoot above 40 percent (from 3-point range) this past season, but I’m trying to build on it and be consistent over these next couple of seasons,” said Harris. “So I’m going to remain diligent in my approach, the things I was really focusing on that are different areas that I highlighted coming into the summer. A lot of physical stuff, improving laterally, quickness, speed, that sort of stuff, just making sure I’m sharp on that end of things and I think it will make the game a little easier for me. Not doing anything too crazy. I’m not going to come back to Brooklyn and be the primary ball-handler or anything like that. I know what my game is and what I do well and I’m just going to keep trying to prove and make sure I’m consistent as possible in those areas.”

And he’s going to do it in Brooklyn. Two years ago, the Nets invited Harris in for a visit after his abbreviated second NBA season. His professional future was uncertain. It isn’t any longer. Harris has found a home in Brooklyn.

“I don’t know what a lot of other organizations are like,” said Harris. “I hear word of mouth. But I know what Brooklyn is about and it made it pretty easy for me. I kind of felt like this is a thing where we’re trying to build and get better and go in the right direction and I want to be part of that process. I thought I fit in culturally, philosophically. I thought we were very similarly aligned with how they wanted to achieve success. I believe in Kenny. I believe in Sean. That’s why ultimately I wanted to stay in Brooklyn.”