One good thing came out of Arron Afflalo's thigh bruise that kept him out of Monday's loss to Brooklyn: Maurice Harkless returned to the starting lineup.
Harkless had not started since Dec. 29 when he had a string of starts as Jacque Vaughn through him into the fire. Since then his playing time has been sporadic.
Monday though Harkless put in a career performance, scoring 16 points and making 7 of his 10 shots. The 16 points were a career high and just the second time he has scored in double figures in his short career. The 10 field goal attempts were also a career best.
Where did this game come from?
Harkless has been quietly keeping his head down and doing his work behind the scenes away from the public's eye. His game is growing a lot there, but not in games. In games, he has mostly relegated himself to standing in the corner and cutting to the basket. Defensively, he has shown potential, but is still learning the ins and outs of an NBA defense — particularly when not guarding the ball.
Monday, he seemed to put it all together. When he had the ball (still a rare feat), he looked to score a bit more and was playing aggressively. He hit two 3-pointers in the third quarter to help Orlando mount that comeback. He also was aggressively running and filling the lane on fast breaks. He did not get the ball all the time, but he was there.
Aggression and activity has been what Harkless needs to add to his game. That will come with confidence.
Confidence will come with successful playing time — something Jacque Vaughn has said he is searching for his 19-year-old rookie. But his strong game (back at home, no less) against the Nets was a big confidence builder for the rookie.
So the next step for Harkless is to have another good game. Next time in his former home arena: Madison Square Garden.