There were six men smiling on the stage, each stretching out in white robes Brooklyn Networks Jersey with chosen last name and number stitched in black. There was the former senior general pick, international sensation and first-round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. And there was Brooklyn’s new general manager, Shaun Marks, who spent July compiling his first roster as his front office’s chief executive.
Anthony Bennett’s Nets career lasted just 23 games. Appearing just five times in his $36 million three-year deal, Jeremy Lin’s hamstring was bruised, and it wasn’t long before Brooklyn emptied his contract and his injury was elsewhere. Caris Levert I eventually got out of rebuilding Marx when she opened the net James Harden From Houston Rocketswhich is a necessary cost of conducting a superhero business.
Since then, five of those six players have left the franchise and disappeared from the picture all together. The 24-year-old in the blue jacket, a second-round pick who was traded and waived and found himself balancing on the outside edge of the league, Joe Harris It has not been considered a mainstay of the franchise. Only the locker room around him changed, with both different faces and a literal interior, as the black and wood color scheme was swapped for a sleeker silver look, as the rookie transformed into a juggernaut full of headliners. Yet Harris, on the other side of the 30, remains the last stitch of these original Knits’ fabric, a connective tissue so vital to the ambitions of this Brooklyn iteration.
Despite the huge mark he left on this organization, his absence was felt by Nets staff throughout their turbulent 2021-22 campaign. An ankle injury and rehab complications in November left Brooklyn’s top groundbreaker, a professional leading scorer with 43.6% from long distance, on the sidelines for the rest of the season. No matter how good Harden or Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving Freelancers with basketball, any team, any superstar team can feel the deep gravitational pull of losing one of the toughest shooters in the league. And as the first round series fell in front of Boston Celticsa common refrain among Nets employees that simply highlighted how much everyone missed Joe.
“You lose, so everyone wants to be like, ‘Oh, why did we lose?'” Harris told Yahoo Sports. “I think if our momentum had been a little different in the playoffs, it might have been different.”
His eventual comeback that season was supposed to be some form of catalyst. Harris opted not to have full reconstructive surgery in the fall, hanging on to any hope of returning to a star-studded Brooklyn lineup. Even for 10 or 15 minutes every night. But the joint never regained its full range of motion. Bone was grinding against bone. He tried four or five different custom ankle braces, but no modification allowed Harris to move as quickly as an NBA game required him to. You can’t scurry around the perimeter, slingshot around screens, with a wobbling bezel.
“It’s taxes. “I thought I could come back, when the truth was my ankle wasn’t in a good place,” Harris said. “I’ve basically exhausted every option I can do. Pretty much anything you can think of to bring me back to Earth.”
He’s out there now, back for Brooklyn’s second game of the season and back in the Nets starting lineup by Halloween. His release remains as smooth as ever, even if Harris hasn’t rediscovered his best league efficiency yet from outside the arc. It still squares and rises as if the image from the shooting guide has been verified. He spent last season on the bench facing opponents that rivaled his style: always on the move and swinging at a pace that kept pressing against his teammates’ defensive principles. A split second difference can turn a routine cut into a devastating dash on the edge. “I’m not coming back from ankle surgery and I’m just going to be like a facilitator,” Harris said.
However, he reappears as a much more charismatic presence. Harris is happy to talk, thoughtful and sympathetic, except he’s not full of junk to talk with his chest ready to blow. Yet the emotion this season, pouring from his elbow upwards through the flick of his wrist, often letting out a primal shriek when his shot splashed through the iron, has generated far more out of necessity than the pure thrill of returning to the court.
“It’s just a thing between us now. You have to, you know, sometimes create your own energy,” Harris said. “Because we’ve had some rough spots in our season so far, even though it’s been really early.”
The team responded to Jack Vaughn’s gritty voice, He was officially named Brooklyn’s head coach last Wednesday. Irving is still serving a suspended sentence, entangled in a complex web of accountability and growth. These energetic networks are simply ready for a collective spirit amidst it all.
“Sometimes you fake it until you do it, but you have to have energy when you’re playing and throughout the season, or it’s going to make it really difficult,” Harris said. “And, you know, we just collectively talk about it as a group just to make sure everyone brings energy and the right kind of energy as well. It’s easy to go in the opposite direction and not enjoy it.”
But these are men playing a children’s game for millions, as one might notice.
“I think it’s one of those things, it’s easy when you’re a college player or a high school player, that kind of thing is kind of fused because it’s taken for granted. In the NBA, it’s not quite consistent,” Harris said. If you win, the team is playing well, there is a good generation, it is good. But we have a new group, a lot of guys are not familiar with playing with each other. You may know each other off the field, but playing together is different. Especially with some of the experiences we’ve had here early on, it can affect the energy of the group. Whether you admit it or not. So the whole thing is just trying to be positive with each other and just trying to make sure everyone is having fun playing. This is why we play basketball. We love it.”
Harris cracked a smile. “If you are not liking It makes it really difficult when you play 82 times a year.”
And boy, are the Nets glad Harris is playing any games at all.