Brooklyn Nets guard Joe Harris’ story of getting to the NBA is similar to that of many NBA players. When Harris was growing up, he set goals for himself at each level of basketball continuing to set the bar higher and higher as he reached each successive goal.
“My goal I guess when I was in high school and working up through high school was, I really wanted to play Division I basketball,” said Harris in an interview with CBS Local Sports. “As soon as I got to Division I basketball, playing at Virginia, my goals were to make it to the NBA from there. So, it was kind of like a ladder so to speak from the time I was in high school, to college to now obviously playing in the NBA.”
Harris was drafted with the third pick in the second round of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. That same offseason, LeBron James made his way back to Cleveland, the Cavs traded for superstar forward Kevin Love and suddenly Harris found himself as the lone rookie on a team full of veterans. For Harris, he says that was a great situation despite not seeing the court very often because he got to learn from so many guys that were long-time veterans of the league.
“Cleveland, although I didn’t play a lot I really learned a ton in my year and a half of being there. I was really fortunate to be around some of the game’s best players,” said Harris. “To be around LeBron every day and Kyrie and Kevin and then veteran guys like James Jones, Richard Jefferson, Shawn Marion, whoever it might be. I was the only rookie on the team, I was lucky enough to have all of these veteran guys take me underneath their wing and really just show me what it was to be professional and make myself successful playing in the NBA.”
In particular, Harris got an up close and personal look at the work that LeBron James puts in each day in order to maintain his place as the top player in the league.
“There are so many things being around him where you’re just kind of in awe of the way that he plays and you marvel at his confidence, the ease that he plays with and, just how talented he is,” said Harris. “But, the stuff behind the scenes is, the guy is so incredibly diligent and dedicated from the moment he wakes up to the moment he goes to sleep that everything that he does is to make him a better basketball player.”
After spending two years in the Cavs organization, Harris signed a two-year, $2 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets in the 2016 offseason. In his first year in Brooklyn, Harris posted career highs in points per game (8.2), three point percentage (38.5%) and minutes per game (21.9). He attributes that to knowing his role within the Brooklyn system thanks to coach Kenny Atkinson.
“I was lucky enough to get picked up through free agency by Brooklyn and by a coach and front office where guys really believed in me and the way that I play,” said Harris. “I feel like I came into a system where I really fit the way that Kenny (Atkinson) wanted to play. It allowed me to really understand what my role would be with the team and it gave me a lot more confidence.”