EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -The run to the playoffs for the New Jersey Nets is set to go through Devin Harris.
The recently acquired point guard was given the job of directing the Nets' offense by coach Lawrence Frank Wednesday after practicing for the first time since the Jason Kidd deal with Dallas last week.
``We really want him to take ownership with this,'' Frank said. ``We want him to feel comfortable with this, be assertive and have the freedom to make some play calls.''
How much Harris can help immediately is uncertain. He has not appeared in a game since spraining his left ankle while playing for the Mavericks on Jan. 27.
His availability against Milwaukee at the Izod Center on Thursday night will be a game-time decision. Indications after practice were that Harris would come off the bench and replace Marcus Williams if the ankle feels OK.
``Besides running up and down the court, I can pretty much do everything,'' said the third-year player who turned 25 on Wednesday. ``The wind isn't there because I haven't played in a month. I have to get my stamina back up.''
After watching for more than a week, Harris has a good feeling for the offense.
``I learn best when I can go through things at full speed and learn that way,'' said Harris, a talent who has a big upside being 10 years younger than Kidd. ``I'm kind of hindered watching from the sidelines and trying to figure it out from there.''
Frank knows there will be an adjustment period with Harris running the team. Kidd, who led the Nets to two NBA finals, had six years to get to know where and when Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson wanted the ball. Harris has had less than 10 days.
Frank believes in Harris, noting coaches and point guards have special relationships.
``Both sides have to be willing to take that leap of faith that there is some trust we're going to give each other, and the only way that trust grows is based on performance and preparation,'' Frank said. ``Again, we'll each take a leap of faith and understand that this is a work in progress and we're going to start here.''
Teammates liked Harris' quickness in practice, and his ability to drive and create off the dribble.
``I think that will be huge,'' forward Bostjan Nachbar said. ``I have said this a million times before, I play off the others and he is one of the guys who creates stuff and I think I am going to benefit from it, just like the others.''
Former Dallas teammate and fellow point guard Darrell Armstrong saw glimpses of Harris when he was with Dallas, where he averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 assists and just 2.4 turnovers in 39 games this season.
``I think he knows offense,'' Armstrong said. ``He knows the offense probably better than any guy in the trade, and he is pretty fluid with it now. It looks like he is ready to go.''
This is the longest Harris has been sidelined since missing 24 games with a leg injury two seasons ago.
``We haven't had a lot of time to get the trust factor going so we've had to take a leap of faith, both of us,'' Harris said of his relationship with Frank. ``He's going to have to trust me and I am going to have to trust him. Hopefully, we'll have time to grow, but right now we are in a tense situation.''
The Nets (25-32) are clinging to a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference with 25 games left in the regular season.
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