Joe Harris’ absence taking toll offensively on Nets

The Nets’ defense has taken a hit lately, and it has put more pressure on their sputtering offense.

Their spacing has been an issue for a while now, and the continued absence of Joe Harris has exacerbated that.

Foes have collapsed on Kevin Durant and James Harden and dared the other Nets to beat them. Lately, that hasn’t happened.

“Joe’s a knockdown shooter, catch-and-shoot shooter,” said rookie combo guard Cam Thomas. “He opens it up a little bit for us and teams just try to load up on James and KD because they think the other guys are not as good shooters — capable shooters, but not knockdown shooters like Joe, so they try to load up and get the ball out of their hands. That’s just our job to knock down shots and make plays when they kick it to us.”

Harris hurt his left ankle in mid-November and had surgery on Nov. 29. He was initially projected to miss 4-8 weeks, and coach Steve Nash said Monday the sweet-shooting wing is expected to be out “a couple more weeks.”

Joe Harris makes a move against the Pelicans on Nov. 12, 2021.
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In Harris’ absence, the Nets have been forced to rely (possibly over-rely) on Patty Mills, bumping the sixth man into the starting lineup and living or dying by his 3-point shooting. They will get a boost in road games now that Kyrie Irving is able to play, but when they’re at home, they will still sore miss Harris’ floor spacing.

“We haven’t had Joe Harris for two months basically. It leaves us thin in the shooting department, the spacing department,” Nash said. “And then you add to [Irving’s] otherwordly ability to play off the dribble, on the ball, off the ball, whatever it is. I think we certainly miss Joe, and Kyrie can fill some of that.”

The Nets’ effective field-goal percentage in the 423 minutes that Harris played is a solid .563. That has dipped to .523 without him, entering Sunday’s game against the visiting Spurs.

“With Joe Harris out, we just need [Mills’] shooting ability, experience, facing all those things,” Nash said. “But eventually I think with Joe coming back, he could find a more comfortable amount of minutes.”

Center LaMarcus Aldridge is questionable for Sunday’s game with right foot soreness. He played the last two games after sitting out Jan. 3 vs. Memphis with the same injury.

The Nets had a pair of non-guaranteed deals become fully guaranteed on Friday. All players on non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed contracts got full deals if they were still on the roster at 5 p.m.

LaMarcus Aldridge, going up for a shot against Philadelphia on Dec. 30, 2021, is questionable for Sunday's game against the Spurs.
LaMarcus Aldridge, going up for a shot against Philadelphia on Dec. 30, 2021, is questionable for Sunday’s game against the Spurs.
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DeAndre’ Bembry is now guaranteed at the league minimum, though considering the huge impact the St. Patrick (N.J.) product has had on the Nets, that was never any real concern. Rookie David Duke Jr., who is on a two-way contract, also became guaranteed. He even started Friday against the defending champion Bucks.

“Just giving David a look,” Nash said. “Our rookies have played really well this year. They’ve played hard, they have great energy, great spirit. They’ve deserved a look. It’s hard to get them all a look at the same time, so David’s had an opportunity here.”

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