NEW YORK -- The Nets began Tuesday worrying about how they would defend the Knicks. They ended the day worrying about Devin Harris.
The first irony is that the Nets point guard was injured trying to defend the Knicks in transition. The other irony is the Nets played no defense against Amar'e Stoudemire and the Knicks in their 111-100 loss, but it was the least of their concerns.
Harris suffered a knee injury when teammate Kris Humphries fell on top of him in the third quarter. The extent of the injury won’t be known until today when Harris has an MRI.
To say the Nets are praying for good news would be an understatement. As it stands, Jordan Farmar would be their starter and Ben Uzoh their backup point guard. That’s the lineup you can expect tonight when the Nets play host to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“We are concerned,” coach Avery Johnson said.
Harris sounded less concerned, but everyone is crossing their fingers that Harris has only a strained meniscus and not a torn meniscus. Either way, he’s expected to miss some time, and the Nets are going to have to learn how to survive without him.
It’s a major loss, and not just because Harris is New Jersey's best player. Harris makes the offense go and has been playing much better perimeter defense. And to this point, he’s been healthy and a big reason the Nets already have six wins, or half their total from a season ago.
Without him, the offense sometimes looks inept. It may not seem that way when you see 100 points scored last night, but the Knicks play no defense. When the game was in the balance, when Harris went out, the Nets completely fell apart. They scored eight points over the final 6:20 of the third period. The Knicks had 21 in that time and built a 15-point lead. Ballgame.
The Nets tried to hang around in the fourth, but they couldn’t stop the Knicks. Now, and for the foreseeable future, they’re going to have to figure out how to play without Harris.
“I’m feeling all right,” Harris said. “It feels pretty good. We’re going to do an MRI to rule out a meniscus tear. We can’t really rule out anything until then. It’s just a little bit stiff, a little bit swollen. All in all, I think it was not too bad.”
That’s what the Nets are hoping, naturally.
Harris wasn’t having a good game offensively, but if the game were tight in the fourth quarter, you would expect him to be the one to make plays for the Nets. He has been the playmaker for most of this season, including Sunday’s win over the Blazers. Harris’ 3-pointer put them ahead for good in the fourth, and his two foul shots put them up six late.
For the time being, Brook Lopez is going to have to do more, but his looks will be much different because Farmar and Uzoh won’t get the attention Harris does. The same goes for all the Nets’ shooters without Harris.
Depending on how long Harris is out, the Nets could decide to bring back Terrence Williams, who was sent down to the D-League last week. If he’s committed and a good teammate, Williams could make a difference, but not the way Harris does.
Harris is invaluable to this team. That's why Johnson is "hoping and praying for some good news today."
“Big game changer. Devin is a guy that we rely on heavily. In a sense, it’s kind of like if they lose Stoudemire. On a lot of nights Devin has been one of our top two players. It was tough to overcome it. We didn’t finish the second quarter really good. We had a 9-point lead there. We got Devin out to save another foul on him and we didn’t finish that second quarter well. They went on a little run there and it seemed like that momentum carried over to third quarter where they outscored us pretty good, especially after Devin went out with his injury.”
- Johnson after losing Harris in a tight game
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Al Iannazzone covers the Nets for The Record (Bergen County, N.J.)