Denton: Reserve Assignment Not Bothering Harris

By John Denton
March 12, 2014

ORLANDO – Tobias Harris is no longer a starter for the Orlando Magic, but he’s still getting off to fast starts. And he just might have a stationary bicycle to thank for his stellar play early in games.

Harris was moved to the bench three games ago so that Orlando could start a bigger lineup that features power forward Kyle O’Quinn playing alongside of center Nikola Vucevic.

Harris, who was in a reserve role again on Wednesday night against Denver, handled the change well, vowing that he would remain aggressive and still give the Magic the scoring punch that it expects from him. He had 23 points on Saturday in San Antonio and another 11 points on Monday in Milwaukee.

Harris, who missed seven weeks earlier in the season with a severe high ankle sprain, had has to alter his routine somewhat to get used to coming off the bench. Because he’s forced to sit down after going through the layup line and his pregame shooting session, Harris usually heads to a stationary bike near the court at the halfway point of the first quarter.

``My body is already locked in in the layup line and even before the game,’’ Harris said. ``But getting on the bike allows me to get my legs moving and get my ankle going and make sure that it’s not stiff when I get out there. You warm up and get ready and then you are sitting down. So it’s just about getting the blood flowing and getting ready to go out there and play like I haven’t missed a beat.’’

The maneuver to get Harris warmed up and ready to play has worked wonders of late. Upon checking into Saturday’s game, he sprinted down the floor and converted a three-point play just 20 seconds into the game. That night he scored 13 first-half points and had 10 more in the fourth quarter to keep Orlando within striking distance. On Monday in Milwaukee, Harris came into the game locked in and scored Orlando’s final three baskets of the first quarter. He followed that up with two more baskets – he made five of his first six shots – and scored 11 points in the game’s first 14 minutes.

``His ability to score the basketball is probably one of his biggest advantages,’’ Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said of Harris, who came into Wednesday averaging 14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds a game. ``And to be able to do that after seeing how the game is materializing, it’s to his advantage. We’re seeing some positives results from (Harris as a reserve) and we’ll continue to see what we learn from it.’’

THOUGHTS OF WHAT IF: Echoing the thoughts of Penny Hardaway, Horace Grant and Nick Anderson, Brian Shaw said rarely does a day go by that he doesn’t think about the Magic’s 1994-95 team coming up short in the NBA Finals against the Houston Rockets. Shaw, a first-year coach for the Denver Nuggets, played for Orlando from 1994-97 and he said Orlando is only NBA city where he ever purchased a home because he loved living in Central Florida so much.

Shaw was a sixth man on the ’95 Magic squad that closed down the Boston Garden, eliminated Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and outlasted the Indiana Pacers in seven games. Shaw and the rest of his Magic teammates fully expected to play well in the NBA Finals against a Houston team that they had swept during the regular season. Instead, the Magic were swept by the Rockets. And a year later, the Magic’s dynamic roster fell apart when Shaquille O’Neal defected to the Los Angeles Lakers.

``It was our first year all together, than group. We went from getting swept in the first round against Indiana (in 1994) to going to The Finals, it was amazing,’’ Shaw remembered. ``To play a team that we had beaten both times during the regular season and somebody it felt like we handled well, maybe that was what did us in.

``We had a big lead in that first game, the momentum switched and we never got it back in our favor,’’ Shaw continued. ``So I think about it all of the time, too. Those Bulls teams that three-peated they got to stay together a longer period of time. If that (Magic) team had gotten to stay together longer, who knows what would have happened. We had our opportunity at the time and we came up short. Now, all we can do is say, `What if?’’’