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Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris excited by Kyrie Irving reunion

Tom Dowd, staff writer,

Wednesday 10 July 2019 16:21, UK

Kyrie Irving elevates to block a shot by Joe Harris
Image: Kyrie Irving elevates to block a shot by Joe Harris

Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Joe Harris is excited to team up again with Kyrie Irving, who he describes as one of the NBA's 10 most talented players.

From 20 wins to the playoffs to a prime destination for the biggest free agents - with his own personal pit stop for a spotlight at last season's All-Star Weekend - Harris has been in from the start of a remarkable Brooklyn Nets resurgence that kicked into overdrive with the free-agent signings of Kevin Durant, Irving and DeAndre Jordan.

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At a time when general manager Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson were just getting started and searching for talent, Harris was part of their first free-agent class, one that looked very different from the one they just signed. It has turned into a perfect match of player, coach, and organisation.

"I think when Sean and Kenny got in and then assembled the team you could see stuff transitioning and changing," said Harris as he watched Brooklyn's Summer League squad play at UNLV's Thomas & Mack Arena.

"Obviously it's a slow process. You didn't anticipate it happening as quickly as it did or in the manner that it happened. But I think at some point everybody could kind of see the tide turning. We had a great year this past year, but then to go out and make the splash in free agency, it sort of solidified the 'come-up' of this organisation."

Joe Harris #12 of the Brooklyn Nets shoots a three point basket against the Milwaukee Bucks on April 6, 2019 at the Fiserv Forum Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Image: Harris shoots a three-pointer against the Milwaukee Bucks

On Tuesday, Atkinson cited players like Harris and Caris LeVert - now the two longest-tenured Nets from their summer of 2016 acquisitions - as keys for establishing and maintaining the culture that helped attract the big free agent haul.

Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie, signed a few months later after the season began, have been the gems of the Nets search and development process; two players who were out of the league and grown into core pieces.

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Each season, Harris and the Nets took a step forward. As Brooklyn grew into a playoff team, Harris became a full-time starter in his third season with the Nets, leading the league in shooting 47.4 per cent from three-point range, his second straight season above 40 per cent.

He also averaged career highs of 13.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while shooting 50 per cent overall.

Joe Harris #of the Brooklyn Nets hugs Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors during the 2019 3-Point Contest as part of All-Star Saturday Night 1:54
Highlights of Joe Harris' victory in the Three-Point Contest at the 2019 All-Star weekend

"When you do stuff the right way, and people see sort of the enthusiasm that the team plays with, the culture that has been built, that is there, everybody recognises it," said Harris. "And everybody knows that the Nets are a first-class organization from the top down, from ownership to the front office and coaches.

"There's a clear synergy there where it's something you would want to be a part of and obviously there are a lot of other things that factor into it. But I think establishing that foundation, that culture early on is just as important as anything else that has happened along the way."

Kyrie Irving evades Myles Turner to score at the rim 1:56
Kyrie Irving racked up a game-high 37 points to lead the Boston Celtics to a Game 2 win over the Indiana Pacers

Rising to 42 wins and the playoffs, the Nets were one of the NBA's great stories of the 2018-19 season. But this is a league that does not lack for storylines and drama.

One of them was the fate of Durant, Irving and a star-studded potential free agent class after the season.

Kyrie Irving attacks the basket against Memphis 0:38
NBA analyst Bruce Bowen breaks down Kyrie Irving's elite offensive skills

There was no shortage of rumours over the course of the season, plenty of them couched as fact or fait accompli. Finally, on June 30, facts ruled the day and rumours were replaced by reality. Durant and Irving were bound for Brooklyn.

"You hear rumblings over the course of the season," said Harris. "But with KD, I don't think anybody was really sure at all until literally that last day. I think we had more of an idea that Kyrie was interested in coming to Brooklyn, but with KD and DeAndre, that was more like the day of."

Joe Harris (left, bottom row) celebrates the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA title win along with Kyrie Irving
Image: Harris (left, bottom row) celebrates the Cleveland Cavaliers 2016 NBA title win along with Irving

While Durant has friendly connections with LeVert and the newly acquired Taurean Prince, Harris has had a more up-close experience with Irving. He was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 and was a rookie during Irving's fourth pro season in Cleveland, one in which he was named to the All-NBA Third Team.

"I would say you could ask a lot of people that played with him and they'd all say that he's a great team-mate and a good guy to be around," said Harris. "None of us are perfect all the time. We're all going to have ups and downs throughout the course of the season.

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"For him, unfortunately, he's just in one of these scenarios where there is so much more attention on him and people are paying much more attention to when he does have an off day. It's a little bit different than people like me. I have off days all the time too, but nobody really cares when I have an off day. People care when Kyrie does."

Mostly, Irving left a big impression with Harris on the court. "I remember seeing him have like 57 [points] when we played against the Spurs in San Antonio," said Harris. "It was one of the better individual performances I've ever seen on the basketball court especially live. He's one of these guys where he's very much must-see.

"We all know the talent, but I got to see it for a year and a half every day in practice. Every day on the court. He really is that talented. He's a top-10 talent."

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