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By John DentonNov. 12, 2014
NEW YORK – Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris spent much of this past summer in his native New York, playing pick-up games at the famed Rucker Park and even scrimmaging several times against superstar forward Carmelo Anthony.
But that doesn’t mean that Harris has given much thought to his NBA future being in New York or potentially playing for the Knicks and alongside of Anthony.
A New York Post report on Wednesday claimed that Harris might have interest in playing for the Knicks this summer when he becomes a restricted free agent. Harris and the Magic failed to reach a contract extension prior to the Oct. 31 deadline, meaning the high-scoring forward will become a restricted free agent on July 1. The Magic will have the right to match any offer sheet that Harris receives from another team.
Harris, who came into Wednesday’s game against the Knicks second on the Magic in scoring at 17.5 points per game, said his only focus right now is trying to help Orlando win as many games as possible.
``My thoughts are just that I’m all about being for my team right now. I’m all about where I’m at right now and that’s with the Orlando Magic,’’ Harris stressed. ``I’m not worried about (free agency) at all. I just want to help my team be the best that we can be. Each and every day I pride myself on helping my teammates helping us get better as a team and winning games. That’s my focus.’’
Harris, who is in his third season with the Magic after coming to Orlando via a trade in February of 2013, said he isn’t allowing his focus to stray to when he can become a free agent in July. He said that while he was disappointed that he didn’t secure a four-year contract extension last month, he had no hard feelings toward the Magic and his first option is to remain in Orlando.
``It’s not personal; it’s just business. That’s the way you’ve got to look at it,’’ Harris said. ``We’re past that point (for a contract extension). There’s no hard feelings at all and it’s just business. As a basketball player this is my job, this is what I come out to do and this is what I love to do. It’s all about how I approach the game and help my team now.
``I just go out there and play basketball. I’ll let everything else handle itself,’’ added Harris, who said there was no added pressure on him to post big statistics in hopes of earning a contract extension. ``Like I said, I’m about helping my team win and being in the present moment right now – and that’s playing against the Knicks (Wednesday) night.’’
FINDING FRYE: The Magic and head coach Jacque Vaughn are well aware that for their offense to function at its highest this season that sweet-shooting power forward Channing Frye must be an integral piece.
After all, Orlando awarded Frye with a lucrative four-year free-agent contract in the offseason in hopes that he could have a dramatic effect on the offense – both as a deadly outside shooter and a floor-spacer for others in the offense.
Orlando spent much of Monday’s practice and Tuesday morning’s shoot-around session working to try and incorporate the 6-foot-11 power forward more into the flow of the offense.
The Magic then went out on Tuesday night in Toronto and repeatedly fed the ball to Frye, who connected on his first four shots and had three 3-pointers in the first 24 minutes. It was no coincidence that some of Orlando’s best basketball of the season came as Frye was scoring 16 first-half points. However, he had just three points in the second half – a key factor in Orlando blowing an 11-point lead and losing 84-80 to the Raptors.
Still, Vaughn was delighted with how his team heeded his direction to find Frye more in the offense. Frye, who signed with the Magic in July, missed some valuable time of getting to know his new teammates when he sprained his left knee early in training camp and missed four weeks. Slowly but surely, the Magic have better figured out how to work Frye into the offense.
``I just think his comfort level of playing with guys is getting better and there weren’t balls going behind him and over his head (on passes) from guys,’’ Vaughn said. ``Passes were going into his hands and into his shooting slot. That will continue to grow and get better as well.’’
Frye, who is in his ninth NBA season, said that he’s feeling much more comfortable with his new teammates and he’s finding spots in the Magic offense where he can get open shots. Frye came into Wednesday’s game in New York averaging 10.4 points a game while shooting 48.3 percent from the floor and 44.1 percent from 3-point range.
Magic point guards Elfrid Payton (six times) and Luke Ridnour (four times) have found Frye for 10 of his 28 field goals this season. Frye’s chemistry has also grown with Nikola Vucevic (four assists to Frye) and Evan Fournier (three assists to Frye).
Following his hot start on Tuesday, Frye caught the attention of Toronto’s defense and he had a difficult time getting clean looks at the basket. He knows that in time he will find new ways in the Magic offense to play off his teammates and get himself open.
``(The Raptors) were basically like, `(Forget) this, we’re not going to let you touch the ball,’’ Frye said. ``Teams are going to start doing that. But we just have to figure out what plays are going to work for us. … We have to go to those plays. We have to rid the hot guy. We’re still learning, but that’s something that the next-level teams do.’’
ETC: The Magic are in arguably the toughest stretch of their schedule this season. In addition to being in the midst of a stretch of games where they are playing 15 of 20 games on the road, Orlando is also playing four games in five nights. The Magic lost in Toronto on Tuesday, they played in New York on Wednesday, they are off on Thursday and then they play Milwaukee in Orlando on Friday and travel to Washington to face the Wizards on Saturday. … Just last week, Harris drilled the game-winning shot in Philadelphia at the buzzer for Orlando’s first victory. On Tuesday, he had to deal with the sting of missing a 10-foot shot with 1.9 seconds remaining that could have tied the game. Said Harris: ``For me, you have to have the confidence to take the shot and live with the consequences of it. But the good thing is we have another game (Wednesday) and you have to have a short-term memory. … I watched the shot a couple of times just to see the play and I got a good look off. They played some good defense and it just didn’t fall.’’ … Magic rookie point guard Elfrid Payton made sure to get in a lengthy pre-game shooting session Tuesday night so that he wouldn’t be in awe of playing his first game in Madison Square Garden when the game started. Said Payton: ``I went out there early to get a good look at it. It was cool driving in and seeing the MSG sign and all of the pictures of the old concerts in the hallways.’’ … Frye, who was born in White Plains, N.Y., was the No. 8 pick of the 2005 NBA Draft by the Knicks, but he lasted just two seasons in New York as the franchise struggled to win under former coach Isiah Thomas. Said Frye: ``We didn’t win. It was a rough time here because the team was in a transition. Me personally, I wanted us to win but I didn’t know what it took because it was so early in my career.’’