ORLANDO – Brett Brown’s message for Tobias Harris is simple.
“Keep shooting,” the 76ers coach said Wednesday night toward his struggling forward.
“Don’t listen to any of you guys,” Brown continued, addressing the media. “Don’t read anything. Keep shooting. Little harsh?”
While Brown might have joked about the harsh part, he was serious about wanting Harris to continue shooting.
He encourages the ninth-year veteran to be the designated scorer. Brown has also told Harris, “You are my new JJ Redick at 6-foot-9.”
Redick was the team’s sharpshooting, three-point specialist the past two seasons before signing with the New Orleans Pelicans in July.
The underachieving Sixers (7-4) need Harris to keep being aggressive, partly because their championship aspirations could depend on him. Two-time All-Star center Joel Embiid draws double-teams, so the Sixers need a dependable scoring option from the perimeter to help create space and be a reliable closer.
In addition to Brown wanting Harris to be “Redick at 6-foot-9," Harris is the best candidate for that closer role. Jimmy Butler occupied that spot last season.
Before coming to Philadelphia via a blockbuster trade in February, Harris had been the Clippers’ most consistent player. He averaged a career high in points (20.9), and shooting career bests in field goal percentage (49.6%) and three-point percentage (43.4%) in his 55 games with Los Angeles.
A key piece to the team’s success, the Sixers signed him to a five-year, $180 million deal in July.
However, Harris has missed 23 consecutive three-pointers since making one on Nov. 4 against at the Phoenix Suns. So including that make, the 27-year-old is 1-for-24 from three-point range in the last six games. For the season, Harris is shooting 20.4% on threes and 46.2% overall. He has shot 36% from three in 557 career games.
Brown pointed out that Harris was ill after going 0-for-11 from beyond the arc while making 4 of 17 shots overall in Tuesday night’s 98-97 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers at home. He has looked under the weather and worn down the past two games.
Harris, though, wouldn’t use his illness as an excuse after missing 9 of 13 shots – including all three of his three-pointers – in Wednesday’s 112-97 loss to the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.
“When I get out there and play, I’m playing,” he said. “I’m under the weather? Yeah. But at the end of the day, if I get out there and play, I believe I can go.”
Right now, Harris is out of rhythm. He said after Wednesday’s game that he’ll find that rhythm. Once he does, Harris said he’ll make the shots that are available to him.
“Until then, I will watch film and see the looks that I can get,” he said. “See the easy one that I can get. But they are not going in for me. Sometimes I try to get to the free throw line, obviously.”
However, he didn’t attempt a single foul shot in the past two games., and the 77.1% foul shooter is only attempting 3.2 free throws per game.
Harris is the team’s second-leading scorer (16.5 points per game) and rebounder (8.4). But he’s averaged just 8.0 points while shooting 8-for-30 (26.7%) overall and missing all 14 of his three-point attempts the past two games. In both games, he was missing wide-open looks. That led to Harris starting to press when they weren’t falling Wednesday.
“I think that’s human nature,” Brown said. “He wants to please. He wants to shoot the ball. He wants to score.
“We need him to score.”