Savage: Q&A With Justin Harper

By Dan Savage
July 9, 2012

ORLANDOSavage: What have you been up to this summer?

Harper: "This summer for me is just consisting of, in the morning, lifting. Right after lifting, getting a good on-court workout, getting a lot of shots up. Some days, it depends, we’ll go and get a boxing workout after lunch and/or track in the morning. There’s a lot of strength and conditioning and I’m trying to work that into what I do on the court. I’m trying to be sharper and every day just get better and better. I’m really just working hard. It’s been a grind and I really just want to use this summer to get over the hump and really try and make a name for myself."

Savage: What are your main goals heading into next season?

Harper: “I just want to be able to say that I can be an impact player on this team. I love the Orlando Magic, I love the city and I want to be a major part of the program. I know that we’re going through a transition right now with management and stuff, stuff that’s out of my control, but the only thing I can do is just to continue to work hard and try and push myself as hard as I can to be the best player I can be and be an impact player for the franchise.”

Savage: What’s the last year been like for you, going through the lockout right after being drafted and then having to learn a lot of stuff on the fly with a condensed schedule, shortened camp and limited practices?

Harper: “It was a roller coaster, I’ll admit. This last summer was so weird, and then we had the lockout. During the lockout, I went to go play in France. I was able to learn some stuff, just about playing professionally that I had to learn before coming back to the NBA. Like you said, I learned a lot of the stuff that you need to learn in the summer time, on the fly and during the season from a lot of the veteran guys and stuff you pick up in practice. It was tough at first; every rookie hits that wall. My rookie year was tough because I didn’t play too much. I didn’t get too many opportunities to see the court, because I was on a contending team. But I thought I learned a lot from the guys, some of the veteran guys ahead of me, and I picked up some good habits along the way.”

Savage: Who were the guys on the team that you really took to in relation to developing your game?

Harper: “I really watched Baby (Glen Davis) a lot, the way he brings it every day in practice, how competitive he is. Q-Rich (Quentin Richardson) was helping me a lot, being in my ear, telling me what I need to do, what not to do and the importance of going hard and being professional. J.J. (Redick) is a real professional, a real model guy. I talked to those guys whenever I needed advice or needed help with anything. They were great with that.

Savage: What were you able to take from former Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy during his time here?

Harper: Stan was all about being a professional. No matter what’s going on - obviously we had a lot of distractions, a lot of crazy stuff with the media and everybody talking about our team everyday – he always stressed the importance of coming to work ready to go everyday and not letting outside stuff affect you when you come into work. I thought he did an outstanding job as far as keeping us all on the same page throughout the run in the playoffs, getting guys ready to go and motivating them when it was go time in the playoffs. That’s why we were able to make that push, solidify our seed and go out there and get that Game 1 win in Indiana. Everything that goes with being a professional and coming to work hard everyday, I think that’s what he brought to the table.

Savage: What have you learned from working out with Bo Outlaw this summer?

Harper: Bo is just trying to help me sharpen my post game. He’s another guy that’s all about being a professional and knows the importance of working hard every day. He really pushes me as well as these other guys. He’s really just in my ear telling me ‘good job,’ ‘you did this, but you need to work on this.’ He’s really just been in my ear and been the vocal guy since we don’t have a coaching staff here right now. He’s been one of the main guys helping me out day-to-day.

Savage: How challenging is it in the offseason to go outside your comfort zone and work on new techniques?

Harper: It’s not really that tough when you think about it. This is the offseason. This is where you have to work on those things that aren’t considered your strong points. For me, I definitely need to work on sharpening up my ball-handling skills, my in-between game and my mid-range game. Everyone knows I can shoot, so I have to be able to react when guys are flying at me, whether that’s driving all the way to the basket or shooting a pull-up jump shot. Everything that goes with ball handling and being able to go to the basket and finishing on bigger guys. All of these things kind of help make up my game and I have to make sure every part is sharpened, especially in the offseason. So that’s my goal and that’s how I go about it each and every day.

Savage: What current NBA player’s game do you feel you most model?

Harper: I want to say I have the ability and the potential – because he’s obviously a great player – to be like Kevin Durant. Just his versatility, his ability to score, I think I have a lot of those same qualities. And his work ethic; I’m really a hard worker and I want to be able to go out there and say whenever I come out of the game that I helped my team whether it be hustle plays, scoring however many points, rebounding, whatever I can do to help my team, I want to show that’s why I am here.

Savage: I’ve heard that comparison before.

Harper: I really want to try and model my game after his, because he’s a threat from everywhere on the court. That’s what I really want to be, because then you can do so much for your team. Once you’re a threat guys are forced to change their defense according to you. And then you can help your team in so many more ways whether it’s finding guys, driving and kicking, the defense collapsing on you; you basically have the team under your control then. I’m trying to get there.

Savage: Like a lot of Magic players, you’re involved in social media. What made you get on Twitter and what do you like about being involved in social media?

Harper: I use it a lot more now just to keep in touch with what’s going on. I like to use it to help motivate people and motivate myself. It lets people know how I am feeling and how I think. Sometimes people can go kind of wild on Twitter. But I think if you use it to reach out to people and try to pick people up when they’re going through stuff and help motivate others, I think it’s a good tool. When I first joined Twitter, I thought it was fun. It was my Junior year in college and it was just starting to pick up and everyone was like ‘you should get a Twitter.’ So I got one and I thought it was pretty cool, so I just stuck with it ever since.

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