Though many Nets fans are loudly pining for the team to chase a third star this offseason, GM Sean Marks says he has another top priority in mind. And that priority is Joe Harris, and keeping the free-agent-to-be in Brooklyn.
“Priority No. 1,” Marks said. “It’s that simple, yeah.”
Marks spoke with YES Network before his Nets closed out the regular-season with a 134-133 loss to the Trail Blazers on Thursday. The Nets earned the seventh seed in the East, and Harris’ hot play in the restart has been a big reason why.
“Joe, I think we’ve talked about plenty of times,” Marks said. “We’re obviously very proud of where Joe has come from. And where he is today. And he still continues to get better. [He] still wants to work on his craft.
“So, yeah, signing him and seeing him with this group will certainly be a priority for us.”
Harris — who had 19 points in Thursday’s finale against the Trail Blazers — has said before that he hopes to stay in Brooklyn. But he had no clue about Marks’ comments, having kept his focus squarely on the court.
“I didn’t even know that he said that, but I mean to be honest I’m not really thinking that much about the offseason,” Harris said. “Obviously we focused on Portland, and then my mind is really just trying to continue to play good basketball and put ourselves in a position to compete and win some games against Toronto.”
As one of the Nets’ Bubble Big 3 — with Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen — Harris has been stellar during the restart. He averaged 20 points in Orlando, shooting 62 percent from the floor and 54.1 from behind the arc.
Harris extended his streak of games with a 3 to 60 straight, one shy of D’Angelo Russell’s team record set last season. And he has helped the Nets exceed all reasonable expectations, going 5-3 in the bubble as they brace to face the champion Raptors.
“We do know that we have to prepare for Toronto obviously now, solidifying that spot. For us, it’s always just been exactly that: It’s just been about us trying to play the right way, play for each other, compete on both ends,” Harris said. “Our motto is just going out trying to enjoy, too, enjoy playing with each other, have fun. … Playing the right way, that’s fun basketball to play.”
Harris told The Post he took less money to stay in Brooklyn in 2018, signing a two-year, $16 million deal. But with his name having grown with his game, he has clearly earned a raise, with many around the NBA suggesting he could get a 50 percent bump, if not even double, depending on how hard the pandemic hits the market.
Former Nets assistant GM Bobby Marks — now with ESPN — tweeted that Harris likely will sign for $12-to-$14 million. And the Nets are in a tough spot, knowing if they lose him they only have the $5.7 tax midlevel to replace him with.
The Nets are over the salary cap, but they do hold Harris’ Bird Rights, so they can go over the cap to keep him. And owner Joe Tsai — who is worth $13.5 billion, according to the latest Bloomberg Billionaires Index — already has confirmed he will pay luxury tax if need be for a contender.
The Nets should be just that with the expected return of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving next season. Harris has said he would love to return with them.
“Definitely! Why wouldn’t you?” Harris said in February. “Obviously those are guys who I’ve gotten close with now that I’ve been with them this past year. They’re obviously incredible players. You see what they’re able to do when they are healthy and playing. I don’t think there’s anybody in the NBA who wouldn’t want to play with those guys.”