I believe I linked to this post in what I posted Tuesday on when the Magic become more about development than about winning games. Perhaps, some clarification is needed though.
The Magic are about development fully. That was a stated goal when Rob Hennigan and Jacque Vaughn took the job.
It is hard to see that development though. Winning and veterans are still a big part of the roster and what the team is about. The long-term goal remains making young players like Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson, Maurice Harkless and, to some extent, J.J. Redick.
Vucevic has turned into quite the steal and a strong player for the Magic. He has been starting at center and has flourished. Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless have seen their minutes go up and down. Both have gone through streaks where they have started and both have sat out plenty of games.
Fans get a little impatient and want to see the young players play more. Jacque Vaughn though has made it clear that he will put those young players in positions they can succeed. That is why Andrew Nicholson sat out Sunday's loss to the Mavericks. Vaughn explained he did not like matching up Nicholson with Dirk Nowitzki — at least not at this point in Nicholson's career.
It can be frustrating when the public does not see the growth and development from these young players whom many people see as the future of the franchise and building blocks.
Take Harkless for instance. Harkless is a raw, young player who relies mostly on his athleticism to score points at this point. He is learning a completely new role as a defender and off the ball scorer. He has had to take shots he is not quite comfortable with — the 3-pointer mainly which he does not have consistency with.
That’s the toughest part for me and I’m still trying to get comfortable because sometimes I don’t know what to do." Harkless told John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com of his diminished role in the offense. "In college, I was always the first option and I always had the ball. Here, I’m just trying to find ways to make something happen without the ball. It’s just something that I’m not used to
Harkless though is improving and you can see it in flashes on the court. Coaches see it every day in practice.
He told Denton that he has worked hard on his post game and his shooting, shadowing J.J. Redick often. And, most importantly, he has been one of the first guys to arrive in the building each day as part of the Magic's "Breakfast Club." And even after home games, you can hear the bouncing of basketballs in the practice gym as several players continue to get their work in.
As I have noted, the time is coming when these young players will take priority this season and get their attention in the game. But Orlando is playing a long game with guys like Harkless and Nicholson among the players on this roster. They are willing to let these seeds germinate and grow for next season.