Harris hoping to shed fragile tag

harris250.jpgEAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Devin Harris knows the phrase “injury-prone” is linked to his name, and he would like to change that.

He’s off to a bad start, though.
 
The Nets’ All-Star point guard spent about five minutes yesterday talking about his injuries this preseason and what he can do to prevent them, and what he did in the off-season to try and strengthen his ankles, which have been the cause of many days off since early 2008.
 
Harris tried several things, mostly ligament-strengthening exercises. He did some acupuncture and chiropractic work as well as band exercises to strengthen the ligaments.
 
“Things you don’t do until you injure it to strength it,” was how Harris described it. “We’re doing more precautionary.”
 
Who knows if the way Harris plays contributes to his injuries. His strength is stopping and starting, changing speeds and directions. He breaks defenders’ ankles — figuratively speaking — and has done some damage to his own.
 
Harris missed 14 games in 2008, three games last year, one preseason game and part of another and a practice this year because of left ankle injuries. He also tweaked his right ankle early in camp. Right now, Harris has a strained groin that will keep him out of tomorrow’s exhibition game against the Knicks.
 
But you can tell with all the extra stuff Harris did, aside from regular basketball activity during the break, he really wants to shed the “always injured” tag.
 
“I can only control what I can control on the floor,” said Harris, who has missed 31 games due to injury the past two seasons. “Things happen. I don’t know why they happen. You put all the time in [during] the summer. Sometimes nagging things happen. I can only control what I can control.”
 
This is a big year for Harris on many levels. It’s the first time in his six NBA seasons that he is the star of the team, the focal point, the leader. He had somewhat of a dry run last year, but Vince Carter was still here. Now it’s just Harris.
 
There are other guys that will be featured, such as Brook Lopez and Courtney Lee, and, thanks to a strong camp, perhaps Chris Douglas-Roberts. There are other guys who can be leaders like Rafer Alston, Jarvis Hayes and Keyon Dooling.
 
But this is Harris’ team and he knows that how they play will reflect on him. So naturally, he wants the Nets to do better than everyone expects and he wants to make sure he’s out there, directing them and leading them to that type of season.
 
He says that’s why the Nets are taking this approach of resting him now so things don’t worsen. It makes sense; it’s more important that Harris is out there for 82.
 
One good thing is that Harris is not just getting treatment, or sitting off on the side when the team is practicing. He’s also on the floor, pulling guys to the side, advising them, encouraging them, telling them where they should be. He did the same thing the other night when the Nets lost to the Celtics in Newark.
 
“I’m watching practice, [seeing] things I’m trying to correct, whether it’s Brook with his roles or [Terrence Williams] when he’s running the point or [Douglas-Roberts],” Harris said. “Anything I can correct, I try to help those guys throughout the practice and try to build a relationship with those guys.
 
“Even though I’m not physically out there, I’m going to try to help them from a mental aspect.”
 
The Nets need Harris physically on the floor, and he wants to be there, and expects to be there. He said these preseason setbacks are no cause for concern.
 
“Until I miss a whole season,” Harris said, “I don’t worry about it.”
 
Harris and the Nets don’t even want to think about that.
 
***
Joining Harris on the bench for tomorrow’s game at The Garden will be Jarvis Hayes, who has a stress reaction in his right shin. He will miss at least a week.

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