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Perturbed By Swamp Soap Opera

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Devin Harris is a fine young player having for the most part an excellent season.  Not only has he been a big part of the reason the New Jersey Nets have been better than expected thus far in 2008-09, there is also a strong case to be made that he has been the Eastern Conference's best point guard.

But he was not even the best point guard in the building in either of two contests against the Celtics over the last week and a half, and his reaction to a second-half benching has been nothing short of befuddling.


We're a bit late to the party on this, but still seems worth making note of this one.  As Celtics fans no doubt gleefully recall, the green pounded the Nets in Boston by 32 last Wednesday.  Rajon Rondo played excellent basketball, keeping the rock moving and getting it to his teammates in spots where they were open and taking shots inside their comfort zone.  In addition to cruising to a smooth 11-12-7 performance (to go with three steals), Rondo harassed Harris all night, playing a big role in forcing the Nets' point guard into six turnovers against just three assists. 

Three days later in Jersey, it was more of the same.  Rondo tore up the Nets defense on the break and in the halfcourt while wreaking havoc defensively.  By the end of the first half, Harris had scored seven points (2-of-6 shooting), dished out a single assist and given the ball away three times.  The Celts led by 30 and showed no signs of slowing down.  Nets coach Lawrence Frank pulled Harris and Vince Carter (who had shot 3-for-18 through the game and a half) to start the third quarter, and they did not return to the game.

Sounds reasonable enough so far.  It's tough enough to play against a very good team at full energy, and the Nets were showing no life.  Frank sent a message by yanking two of his best players and supposed team leaders off the floor in a game that was hardly winnable at that point and in which those two in particular were not performing at all.   

Not the way Harris saw it.

As per the New York Post's Brian Lewis' report:

"I was a little perturbed. That's what days off are for,'' said Harris, who texted Eagles QB Donovan McNabb to see how he dealt with coach Andy Reid's benching him earlier this season.

"Nobody likes to sit over there. I shot a text message to Donovan. He felt the same way. I'm pretty sure he was perturbed....(Frank) tried to prove a point and whatnot. It was his decision. It wasn't an easy one for him. I'm sure he got some direction from upstairs as well. We move on. We dealt with it the way we deal with things. We got a big game on Wednesday.''

Direction from upstairs? Ok, so what does that mean, exactly?

"I'm pretty sure it wasn't a positive move from everybody's standpoint,'' Harris said. "I'm pretty sure other people didn't like it.''

This seems a bit silly but at least understandable.  Some of it.  It is a good thing that Harris wanted to be on the court competing despite the fact that the team was getting whacked, despite the fact that the game was as close to over as a game can be at halftime.  He usually gets paid to play basketball and instead got paid to watch basketball for the second half of a game for which his time on the floor had to be pretty embarrassing.  But he still wanted in.  Kudos for that.

The calling-out of his coach by making the not-really-veiled-at-all reference to executives being peeved about the benching is absurd.  I'm not even sure I have anything else to say about that.  While this sort of behavior isn't as uncommon as it should be in pro sports, that doesn't make it any less disrespectful or reprehensible.  The guy has been given the keys to the team.  Going over the head of the coach and airing this stuff out in public isn't cool.

Sadly, that's not even the part that really gets me.  That would be this:

After the Nets' first practice following the second-half benching, Harris admitted he was "perturbed'' at the time, added Nets' higher-ups weren't happy about the call and said he didn't know how he'd respond.

"That's the question. I don't know. It's never happened to me before,'' Harris said. "Remains to be seen. Obviously you try and turn into a positive and whatnot. They're demanding more effort and trying to set the tone and whatnot. We've got to do better. It remains to be seen. I don't think it will have a negative effect."

Harris later qualified that last bit by saying he didn't know if his reaction would be negative or positive. 

I know I'm ranting here, and perhaps I'm nitpicking, but there is something about reading stuff like this that drives me to wit's end.  The rhetoric here doesn't make sense.  He doesn't know how he is going to react?  Seems like playing his tail off and trying not to let himself and his team get embarrassed again might be a swell idea.  Or maybe continuing to work the way a guy getting paid $7.8 million to play a game should practice his craft.

I'm about to put my soapbox away now and get ready to come back with more positivity tomorrow (barring any completely catastrophe this afternoon at the New Garden, of course).  I like Devin Harris quite a bit as a player, and I've heard nothing negative about him as a person.  I do not claim here that the two games last week necessarily mean that he is inferior to Rajon Rondo either.  But sometimes reading comments like the ones above just rubs me a bit too much the wrong way.

Rant complete.  Thanks for being patient with me.

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