Last year, when Harkless became a surprise starter early in the season as a raw rookie, such a matchup against a cagy veteran like Pierce might have overwhelmed him. But Harkless feels now that he is better equipped to handle such a matchup because of his growth both physically on the court and mentally. The change in mentality is the thing that Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is most impressed with when it comes to Harkless.

``Usually when we say development, we say the physical skills on the floor, whether it’s free throw shooting or ball-handling and jump hooks,’’ Vaughn noted. ``But there’s a mental aspect to the game as well and if you can improve that part of it, it will help the individual. I think mentally he’s a stronger human being and that’s where we want to get all our guys.’’

Harkless’ numbers through three games are much improved – and he knows there’s a direct correlation to that and all of the work that he put in over the summer. He’s averaging 12 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.67 steals a game so far. But the numbers that speak the loudest are the 50 percent shooting from the floor, the 57.1 percent success rate from 3-point range and the 66.7 percent he’s shooting from the free throw line.



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