Nets’ Joe Harris to defend All-Star 3-point crown after tough decision

Joe Harris decided to defend his 3-Point Contest title at NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago, then went out and had 16 points, four rebounds and two assists in a Nets win.

In his past two games he’s averaging 19 points, 3.5 rebounds and shot 8-of-16 from 3-point range.

“I’m looking forward to going back,” Harris said. “Its always fun thinking back on it and memories of Charlotte, so I’m looking forward to participating again and competing in Chicago.”

Harris is shooting 40.5 percent from deep and averaging 13.7 points per game, on pace to match his career-high, after the Nets’ 119-97 win over Phoenix on Monday at Barclays Center. But he’s also clearly been playing through fatigue, one reason he had to seriously mull this decision.

“He certainly didn’t ask me,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson half-joked, adding “I wouldn’t expect any [different]. Joe’s a competitor, man. Joe would go down to the Y if you told him there was a pickup game or a 3-point shooting contest.

“I don’t think any of us would dare hold him back. And it was such a joy, such a big positive for our organization, too. Really hope he wins it again. I know he’s more than capable.”

Joe Harris
Joe HarrisCorey Sipkin

Harris had a grueling summer, with a trip to Africa for a charity and then two more across the globe to China, the first with USA Basketball for FIBA and then the second with the Nets in the preseason.

After seeing his attempts take a drastic dip lately — he took just three shots overall on Jan. 31 against Chicago, and hadn’t even attempted a single free throw in the past five games coming into Monday — Harris did at least go 6-for-11 from deep Saturday against the Wizards.

“It comes within the flow and the guys look for him,” Atkinson said. “Obviously teams scout and they lock in. There are teams that say he’s the key to this team, stop Joe and you’ll really slow down the Nets. We understand that and our players understand how important he is.

“Kyrie [Irving] and Spencer [Dinwiddie] and Caris [LeVert], they understand how important it is to get him involved. We want him to take 15 3s a game, and if some of them are contested, so be it.

“But I think Joe’s starting to get his rhythm back. I think he had a period where he was struggling a little bit, but I see him a lot more dynamic lately. Good performance last game, hopefully it can continue.”

The Nets matched their most-lopsided win of the season, tying their 22-point victory over the Hawks on Jan. 12.

With Irving suffering from a knee injury Saturday that’s expected to sideline him for at least a week, Dinwiddie and LeVert started together in the backcourt for the first time all season. LeVert totaled a career-high-tying 29 points, tying his total from Nov. 2, 2018 versus Houston.

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