Joe Harris is listed as probable for the Brooklyn Nets when they host the Oklahoma City Thunder at Barclays Center on Wednesday, and the sharp-shooting swingman is looking forward to being back on the floor after going through practice and scrimmaging on Tuesday.
“I think the energy was higher today in practice than it has been in a while, which is good," said Harris. "It’s obviously tough with this skid that we’ve been on. But everybody is still coming in optimistic, positive spirit, ready to bounce back.”
Harris has missed the last three games due to adductor tightness, and while the Nets have lost seven straight, it was after the last two losses -- to Washington and Cleveland -- that coach Kenny Atkinson specifically referenced the team's offense being out of sync.
“I just think that we didn’t do quite as good of a job of moving the ball," said Harris. "We got into a lot of isolation scenarios. It’s not the way that we can play in order to win. There are some teams in the NBA (that) guys can get by playing that isolation or a little bit more iso heavy. But, really, we’ve got to get back to moving the ball, making sure we’re getting guys room and rhythm looks instead of contested twos, contested pull-ups, sort of settling a little bit instead of getting the ball side to side.”
Playing without Harris over the last three games, the Nets have an offensive rating of 100.6, 28th in the NBA during that span, and far below the 108.2 mark they have for the full season, which ranks 13th in the league.
With the Nets already playing without Caris LeVert since Nov. 14, the loss of Harris took a big slice out of Brooklyn's depth and offensive options.
"I think he puts everybody back in their slots," said Atkinson of Harris' return. "Obviously when he was out, we changed the starting lineup. Second unit's different. That just causes some glitches. So the fact when he comes back he'll go back into the starting lineup, that'll help our offense."
Harris has cooled off a bit since the scorching shooting start that had him leading the NBA in 3-point shooting a month into the season, but he's still 17th in the league with a 44.0 percentage. He's averaging 12.9 points per game while shooting 49 percent overall, with 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
"Believe it or not, it's funny, talk about Joe, his defense. He's a much-improved defensive player," said Atkinson. "Physical defensive presence. I know everybody's going to say his shooting. I'm saying his downhill ability. That's a little bit on D'Angelo (Russell). With Joe, we had another guy that was really attacking the basket. Joe's not just a catch and shoot guy. You usually talk about point guards. Joe's a downhill player. He gets to the rim a lot. Those are the two things."
The Nets close out their seven-of-eight home stretch with Oklahoma City Wednesday and Toronto on Friday. The Thunder are 15-7 and third in the Western Conference, while the Raptors lead the Eastern Conference with a 20-5 record.
Then it's a rivalry game at the Knicks and a trip down to Philadelphia, where the Sixers are 17-8 and third in the East.
"We can't look at it," said Kenny Atkinson of the schedule. "Let's play well against Oklahoma City. Let's get another chance. If I start looking ahead at the schedule, because I think every team's really good. Cleveland, when you talk about (Jordan) Clarkson and Tristan Thompson and Rodney Hood, I have such respect for the NBA player that every team scares the heck out of me. Every team, we're an underdog and that's the way I look at it. I have the appropriate fear of this league that every game is tough."
ABOUT THE THUNDER
Oklahoma City has won five of its last six games dating back to Nov. 21. The Thunder lead the NBA in defensive rating (100.5) and are fourth in net rating (7.4). Oklahoma City also leads the league in steals per game (10.4) and is third in rebounding (48.6) and ninth in blocks (5.8). Paul George (23.2 ppg) and Russell Westbrook (22.8) are one of the league's highest-scoring duos, and Westbrook also averages 9.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game.