Denton: Harkless Admires Afflalo's Work Ethic and Professionalism

   

Afflalo still wasn’t able to join Harkless and his Magic mates at practice on Thursday. He was unable to play in Orlando’s 86-82 loss to the Utah Jazz on Wednesday because of an illness and the team had him stay home on Thursday. If he’s better, Afflalo could rejoin the team on Friday and play on Saturday when the Magic host the Sacramento Kings.

Just what kind of role Harkless has on Saturday is uncertain – just as it has been for a matter of weeks. He started the first 13 games of the season, but has been used sporadically off the bench of late as Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis and Tobias Harris have come back from major injuries.

Over a three-game stretch last week, Harkless played just a combined 17 minutes, including a home game against Cleveland where he didn’t see the floor. He played an inspired 23 minutes on Sunday in Oklahoma City against Kevin Durant, but his playing time was cut to 15 and 12 minutes the past two games. He averaged 8.5 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals in the first 13 games, but those numbers have since dipped to 6.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.0 steals a game.

Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said he opened the season by telling players that just because they were starters or played big minutes last season didn’t mean they would have the same roles this season. Vaughn has stayed in communication with Harkless, telling him that his role has changed as the Magic have gotten players back from injuries. Vaughn’s message to Harkless has been one of patience, working to improve and staying ready.

``There are going to be different pockets throughout this year where I’m going to play different guys. Being a true professional, you stay ready and that’s part of having a mental stamina through this thing,’’ Vaughn said. ``You stay ready and keep your skills current so that when your number is called you are ready to play. There is no guarantee in this game – whether you are an eight-year veteran or a two-year-veteran, you need to understand that. That’s the whole concept and particle of a team.’’

Harkless said Vaughn has told him that it’s OK to be upset with not playing major minutes because he doesn’t want players who are content simply sitting on the bench. Harkless said he has trained his focus on working exceedingly hard in practice to catch the eyes of Vaughn and the coaching staff so that he can earn extra minutes.

``I’m obviously not happy because I want to play, but I can’t control that. I just have to be ready when he puts me in the game and try to make the most of it,’’ Harkless said. ``Jameer (Nelson) told me the thing I can control is when I’m out there on the floor to bring energy and then Coach (Vaughn) will have to keep me on the court if he sees me making plays. Whether it’s defensively or offensively, I have to be aggressive so that I’m making plays and coach will have to keep me in the game.’’

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