After being benched, Harris needs to wake up

carterharris_012009.jpgNEW ORLEANS — The Nets reached the midpoint with their embarrassing loss to the Celtics Saturday and open the second half of the season at New Orleans tomorrow.
 
It’s probably not going from bad to worse, but it could be going from terrible to really bad and based on what Devin Harris said yesterday, it could get worse.
 
Harris didn’t give Lawrence Frank a ringing endorsement when he was asked how he will respond to the Nets’ coach following his second-half benching Saturday.
 
Of course, Harris was upset and had every right to be because he was singled out, but before he says “remains to be seen,” he should consider his coach has put him position to be an All-Star for the first time. Then again, that’s the kind of answer a writer wants because it’s a story.
 
The coach and the player were interacting at practice. It may have been more bluster than anything. But it remains to be seen because Harris was not happy, and if Frank lost him he could end up losing his job.
 
It also remains to be seen how the Nets, as a team, respond from their awful ending to the first half that included three straight losses and Harris, Vince Carter and Josh Boone being benched against Boston.
 
Carter, as usual, is fine. Outwardly, it’s as if nothing ever happened. Harris could take a page from Carter’s book, although Carter admitted if he was 24 or 25 he wouldn’t have handled it that well either.
 
The Nets need to put it behind them quickly as they continue the tough stretch in their schedule.
 
They start this trip at New Orleans and then play at San Antonio. After Memphis and Oklahoma City, the Nets come home and face Toronto before another road trip to Atlanta and Philadelphia.
 
In all, 10 of the Nets’ next 14 games are against teams with better records than they have, and they just lost three games against teams with far better records.
 
It’s a tough stretch that doesn’t need any additional drama or potential turmoil… unless it wakes the Nets up.
 
Maybe this is the wake-up call that Harris and the Nets needed. He hasn’t been playing at the same level as he was earlier this season and maybe the sight of Chris Paul and Tony Parker will give Harris the little extra boost he needed.
 
From what we’ve seen this year, Harris plays well against elite West point guards. Many of them, and their coaches, were happy to see Harris leave Dallas because of the trouble he gave them.

When he’s right and healthy, he’s as quick as anyone in the league and as we’ve seen near impossible to defend. But there is some question about his health, that a hamstring injury that kept him out of 3.5 games is lingering and limiting his lateral quickness and explosiveness.
 
His defense also has come into question because of how Rajon Rondo and Jerryd Bayless played against Harris in those three losses. He’s considered one of the better on-ball defenders in the league, but he’s not showing it, not lately at least.
 
“On the ball I can do better, keeping the ball in front,” Harris said.
 
All around, there is need for improvement on the Nets. That’s why this benching thing should be a blip for them. The focus, on this trip and for the second half of the season, is to continue to get better and see whether they can make the playoffs.
 
It’s right there for the Nets, surprisingly. They must get through their issues and a tough schedule and maybe the second half will end much better than the first.
 

***

 
Frank had an early practice today so the team could gather together and watch Barack Obama’s inauguration.

 ***

 
The Nets and Bulls are discussing a trade that involves the Nets sending Bobby Simmons and Mo Ager to Chicago for veteran guard Larry Hughes. The trade deadline is Feb. 19.

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Harris went for precautionary X-rays on his sore right rib. They were negative.
 
 
Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)

 

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