Denton: Harris Makes His Return

By John Denton
Dec. 13, 2013

ORLANDO – After a couple of stops and starts because of injuries, Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris hopes that he can finally get his highly anticipated season going without any more hesitation.

Harris returned to the active roster on Friday night nearly three weeks after re-injuring a high ankle sprain that had previously cost him five weeks before.

Harris was Orlando’s most productive player late last season, fueling the expectations to nearly sky-high levels for the 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward. But prior to Friday he had played in just one regular-season game because of the lingering pain he’s had with his left ankle.

Harris practiced with the Magic on Thursday and went through the team’s shoot around on Friday to pave the way for him to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Harris has spent the past two weeks doing conditioning and strengthening exercises, and he said when he got back on the court that his explosiveness off the dribble returned.

``It’s back. The biggest thing for me is my timing and conditioning, and all of that felt good for me (in Thursday’s practice),’’ Harris said. ``As we play games I’ll continue to progress and get back to where I was.’’

Where Harris was last season was averaging 17.3 points and 9.5 rebounds over the final 27 games. His return means that the Magic are whole for the first time all season. Head coach Jacque Vaughn said that Harris’ return gives the Magic more firepower and it makes their deeper and more explosive off the bench. But Vaughn knows that Harris might need some time to transition back into full strength considering the amount of time that he’s been away.

``It’s kind of reintroducing ourselves to each other because Tobias has not played a game in a long time, at least a good stretch of minutes,’’ Vaughn said. ``He’ll need to get used to his teammates again and vice versa. So we’ll have a stretch where we can stay healthy and we can re-establish roles and minutes and different rotations.’’

Harris said his strong finish to last season helped build his confidence heading into the offseason. He spent the summer bulking up his body to become a better defender and he stroked thousands of jump shots in hopes of becoming a more consistent long-range shooter.

``It showed me (what he could do). It brought a lot of confidence to my game and the staff and the players here to know what I can do as a player,’’ Harris said. ``Everybody expects a lot from me, but at the same time I come in and work on my craft and my game. I’m a winner and a competitor, and that speaks more volumes that whatever many points or rebounds that I put up. I want to win and I’m going to do whatever I can to help our team.’’

3-D STILL SEEING MAGIC: Dennis Scott, who was honored on Friday night as part of the Magic’s 25th season celebration, hasn’t played for Orlando for 16 seasons, but in many ways he still sees himself as a Magic player while serving in his role as an analyst for TNT and NBA TV.

``Every time I talk about the Magic (on TV) or I’m doing a Magic highlight, like when Arron Afflalo was hot the other night, I can’t lie to you I saw myself (in Afflalo) on the wing,’’ Scott said with a laugh. ``It never leaves my mind that when I watch the Magic play I always remember how it all started. I was a part of the second year and creating all of the memories that we had.’’

Scott played for the Magic from 1990-97 and is still the franchise’s all-time leader in 3-pointers in a game, season and a career. Scott said his regret with the Magic was the team not winning the 1995 NBA title. But Scott said the Magic thought nothing of it at the time because they thought they’d ``win four or five more.’’

Scott said being honored by the Magic on Friday brought great joy to his heart to know that he is still cared for by those in Orlando.

``I’m glad that (Sr. Vice President) Joel (Glass) and the DeVos family is bringing a lot of us back and having this anniversary,’’ Scott said. ``I appreciate it that the seven years that I was here wasn’t forgotten or taken for granted.’’


Follow John Denton on Twitter here