The Joe Harris saga continues in Brooklyn.
The Nets have been without Harris, their vaunted sharpshooter, since he suffered a significant ankle sprain on Nov. 14. He underwent surgery two weeks later with an injury return timeline of four-to-six weeks.
Yet seven weeks have passed, and still no sign of Harris.
That’s because there have been setbacks in his recovery, setbacks head coach Steve Nash said the staff didn’t anticipate and have no choice but to work through until he’s fully 100%
“He’s had some flare-ups,” Nash said ahead of the Nets’ Sunday matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves. “I’m reluctant to talk about it because I’m not a doctor so I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but he’s had some flareups, little setbacks here and there, but he’s continuing to stay positive and work on his rehab and try to overcome it.”
Nash told reporters in Minnesota that Harris is steadily doing more but isn’t yet ready for high-intensity work. He also did not give a firm answer when asked whether or not the reigning three-point efficiency leader will return before the Feb. 20 NBA All-Star Game.
“Yeah there’s been some awareness (of the injury) and irritation,” Nash said at shootaround. “He’s been doing a tug-of-war between making progress and then having some irritation. It’s really a process that’s been tricky.”
The Nets, of course, miss Harris, whose sheer presence adds another dynamic to an already high-powered offense. Harris was shooting 46.6% from three-point range before his injury. That’s a slight decline in his efficiency last season, when he shot 47.5% from downtown to lead the NBA.
Harris has led the NBA in three-point efficiency twice in the past three years, including the 2018-19 season where he shot 47.4% from deep. It’s more than just his individual production, too.
Harris on the floor opens the game up for everyone else on the court. The defense must account for him at all times—or risk an open look for a league-leading marksman.
Yet it appears the Nets have a long road ahead of them before their top shooter returns to the rotation. In his absence, Nash has inserted veteran guard Patty Mills into the starting lineup. Mills is shooting a career-best 42.3% from downtown, but the Nets signed him to captain the second unit and bring a spark off the bench, not start alongside James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
The Nets, however, have no other choice but to continue tinkering with lineups until they are fully healthy. They still don’t know what fully healthy looks like in a season where players have dropped from roster like flies, and given Harris’ “flare-ups,” they’re not getting closer to healthy any time soon.