When I sat down with Nets point guard
"Playoffs," Harris said.
Really, Devin? Even with eight fresh faces on the roster and seven players with two or fewer years of experience? Even with a superstar (
The answers: Yes, yes and yes.
"This group, right now, is really good offensively," Harris said in October. "If we can get our defense right, we'll be pretty good."
The Nets aren't stopping people. New Jersey ranks 27th in defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions), 24th in points allowed and 19th in field-goal-percentage defense. But it does have an offense (101.4 points, fifth in efficiency) that is bordering on being unstoppable, which is why New Jersey (11-8 through Tuesday) has emerged as one of the NBA's biggest surprises.
The credit for the Nets' success can be divided three ways:
"Coach wants me to attack the basket all day long," Harris said recently. "That's the No. 1 option."
Give Frank credit: He knows his roster. The only way an offense based on penetration can succeed is with a solid complement of sharpshooting big men. Rookies
"Vince and Devin get a lot of the credit and they deserve it," Frank said. "But the ability of our guys to understand their role and realize how important it is has been critical."
After spending the first three-and-a-half years of his career as a playmaker in Dallas, Harris has embraced his chance to be a primary scorer. It's a role he has long craved. While a freshman at Wisconsin, Harris marveled at the offensive freedom Badgers coach
"He said, 'Coach, let me get this straight. I get to do that next season?' " Ryan said.
It was in Ryan's offense that Harris broke Wisconsin's single-season scoring record his junior year.
"There weren't too many players that Devin couldn't beat off the bounce," Ryan said. "I still don't think there are."
"Vince has been phenomenal," Frank said. "Here's an eight-time All-Star and a Hall of Famer playing for a team that has significantly changed from when he re-signed [in 2007]. He has totally embraced the role of being a leader. Vince is unique in that when some players have success, they get territorial. They get insecure. [But] he celebrates other people's success."
A league insider with knowledge of the Pistons' thinking told me that Detroit went ahead with the
"They didn't care," the insider said. "They made the deal strictly for the cap relief" after the season, when Iverson's $20.8 million salary comes off the books.
Detroit is 7-9 since Iverson joined the lineup Nov. 7. Its defense, the backbone of the team that has made six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference finals, has been average at best. In a 104-92 loss to the Knicks last Sunday in New York, Iverson and
"This team is a shell of what it once was," a courtside scout said. "They aren't contenders anymore."
Speaking of Duhon, when was the last time the Knicks could say they were getting their money's worth out of a player? That's been the case with Duhon, who signed a two-year, $10 million deal last offseason. He is averaging 15.7 points and 11.7 assists in his last six games, raising his season marks to 12.2 and 8.5.
With the Knicks decimated in the backcourt because of injuries to
"Coach K [