There has been some criticism around the popularity of threes, though. Earlier this season, Gregg Popovich said that three-pointers are killing the game. What would you say to someone who thinks that?
I’m in the NBA right now because of three-pointers. I would have to disagree with him, but I can see where his point is made. You don’t want to overdo it on the analytics.
The other day, we played against Houston, and it was an NBA record for threes taken in a game. I think they took like 70 as a team which is just absurd. It’s like a track meet. People were just launching, honestly. It’s almost like playing in a rec league, and if you’re a basketball purist, there’s something to be said like the way the game was played through the 90s, even through most of the 80s where people weren’t really putting much of a focus on threes or even really guarding the three-point line. It was more just people were trying to swing the ball around to get a good shot and preferably something at the rim. It’s funny, you know, the way that people play now, they’re talking about it, the other day, even when with D’Antoni Phoenix teams, their pace of play would be almost last in the NBA right now
How do you think that bodes for the future of the pace of the game?
Harris: The game is just adapting. That’s all that it is. Like, you’re gonna look ten years from now, and we’re all going to be saying the exact same thing. We’re gonna be like “Jeeze, everybody that plays is just 6’9 and 6’10 and shoots threes, and brings the ball up the floor.” The game is just going to be played at a ridiculous pace. I think everybody just kind of gets better, they start playing different styles, and yeah—I’m gonna be an old head 10 years, 15 years from now looking back on the NBA like there’s no way that I could have played. I came into the league at a good time where there’s obviously a precedent put on shooting but then ten years from now I’m probably gonna be like "Yeah, there’s no way I could play now."
Sometimes on other teams, you see vets get bitter on the success of the younger dudes, but your vets seem like genuine teammates. What role do they play in the culture?
Harris: They are genuine teammates. That’s the perfect way to put it. Those guys have the most respect in our locker room. We’ve had success playing this way, so people understand that we’re not going to be going off and doing stuff on your own. You got to play within the system. Like Jared Dudley, Ed Davis, DeMarre Carroll, they’ve played on some good teams, some playoff caliber teams, and they understand what it takes to win. If things start to kind of shift one way, they’re really good at reeling it back in and basically reminding guys you know why we’ve had success in the first place.
This rebuild was also a result of the smart contracts Sean signed players to, yourself included. Do you think not having expensive contracts with heavy expectations is related to the culture too?
Harris: It’s definitely made it a little bit easier. But then on the same token too, you have guys that are playing for contracts, and they know that you know, you’re not going to be able to get the best deal if you’re on a bad team. You got to be on a good team in order to get your value up.
With regards to your current success despite your contract, fellow Brooklyn legend, Jay-Z once proposed the question, “Would you rather be overpaid or underrated?”
Harris: I have no comment.
When you were a free agent, what role did NYC’s other opportunities off the court play in your decision to signing with the Nets?
Harris: That’s definitely a factor. The Nets they want us to be here and be around, and part of that goes into establishing the culture. If you sign with a team like Brooklyn, you’re basically committing to being in NYC. And you know, I love being here, I love living in Brooklyn, the convenience of the city, being able to walk around, to not have a car. I’m a huge foodie, I love eating around different spots, and there’s probably no better place in the country to do that than in New York—especially Brooklyn.
How do you weigh the benefits of the city compared to the actual ‘workplace’ during free agency?
Harris: Yeah, at the end of the day, all that does play an important piece, but it is secondary to the basketball stuff. Because that is the top priority, that is what I’m doing day in and day out. What’s most important is like what are the people like that I’m working with every day.
You got a favorite pizza spot? Top two?
Harris: I like Roberta’s a lot. But for purely like New York pizza, Di Fara. I mean you got to make the trek out there and just get a slice. It’s big time.
Along the way to the success you’re having now as an NBA player, can you describe a time where you really had to double down on your vision and bet on yourself?
Harris: Back to when I was in Cleveland, I got surgery on my foot, and I got traded actually the same day I had surgery to Orlando in my hospital bed. And Orlando waived me. So I was like, shit. I was sitting there with no job, and I’m pretty realistic to the fact that I’m a second round pick. I hadn’t done anything in the NBA, so there wasn’t anything for other teams to even evaluate. And like, my chances of staying in the NBA are very slim at this point.
At any point, did you ever really waver from your vision or consider any non-NBA careers?
Harris: I didn’t. When I got waived, I was basically like, “Well chances of me staying in the NBA are probably slim, but I’m going to play basketball regardless” If I got to go play in South America, I was totally fine with that. For me, I’m going to try and play basketball for as long as I can because I love it. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do since I was a little kid.
And so regardless, you know, NBA, overseas, wherever, like I was going to plan on playing somewhere and to be honest, I did have a little bit of doubt about getting back into the NBA. But I was still reassured by the fact that I’m still going to have the opportunity to make a living playing basketball. It’s not all that bad. And then, I got lucky—after the rehab process, I had couple different free agent workouts and then lucky that Brooklyn was in the mold of obtaining younger players a little bit more creatively and giving guys second-chance opportunities.
A lot of guys in the league today are investing super heavily off the court both financially and in themselves and other interests. How have you used your position as an NBA player to open up doors in other industries?
Harris: This past summer, I went for like a week to SL Greene, Blackstone, Madison Capital. And I basically just sat in with some of the administrators for like the week just to see like day to day operations. I never had a normal job, so I don’t know what putting a suit on and going and sitting in an office space is like and yeah—there’s just a lot of cool opportunities that present itself just by playing basketball. So it opens up a bunch of doors, and I think the NBA players have gotten a lot better of taking advantage of building up relationships and networks and kind of you know just figuring out what the next step might be.
When you’re a rookie, there’s this transition program, and they talk about the average career span for NBA players and even a long career, might be 10, 11 years. And that flies by. You know, it goes by quickly. They want guys to be prepared for what they want to do next, and what they try to get across to most guys too is that the intangibles, the things that make you a great basketball player are applicable in every aspect of everyday life, business, whatever you want to do.
Have you put in any thought to what you might want to do after your playing career?
Harris: I’m not too interested in having you know, a 9 to 5 job afterward. My interests lie mostly in basketball. Like if I was to be done playing tomorrow, in an ideal world, I would still be involved in the game in some capacity. If that was like in coaching, front office, whatever, I would still just want to be around the game.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
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