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Before Tobias Harris' ankle injury in training camp and early on in the season. Before Tobias Harris bumped knees in Summer League pracitce, shortening his offseason preparations and chance to show off the improvements he planned to make with his likely move to small forward as opposed to playing power forward like he did for about 82 percent of the time he was on the floor for the Magic, Harris was planning to unveil a new offensive arsenal.
This was the guy, after all, who averaged 17.3 points per game in 27 games with the Magic and shot 45.3 percent from the floor. This was a guy who wanted desperately to get playing time in Milwaukee and finally found it in Orlando. And he made the most of it.
What would come next?
Unfortunately, it proved to be injuries.
"It's kind of like re-introducing ourselves to each other," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "Tobias hasn't palyed in a game in a long time. For a good amount of stretch of minutes in a game. He'll need to get used to his teammates again and vice-versa. We'll have a stretch here where hopefully we can stay healthy and we can establish some roles and some minutes and some different rotations. Hopefully that comes along with it."
Rhythm is the key for Harris now as he returns to the lineup. It is going to take a while for Harris to get back to what he was doing well, or what he hoped to improve upon in the offseason, before the injury. Harris was out for a relatively long time.
That absence left Harris' role in flux even more. He was already somewhere between the starting lineup and a role off the bench and he was already somewhere between the two forward spots.
Harris spent his summer working to improve his 3-point range and become more of a perimeter-oriented player. All so he could potentially play with Glen Davis more considering the seniority and skill Davis has on the floor. He can provide a lot of other things too such as his ability to drive the basketball, his energy and especially his rebounding which would be a big boost from the small forward position.
His athleticism sure does not hurt as the Magic try to push the pace more. In a lot of ways, the players that have been playing will have to make some adjustments to make sure Harris' talent fits in and flourishes with them.
"He's a scorer," Glen Davis said. "It just won't be me or Arron or Jameer. He can definitely bring something to the table scoring-wise. His defensive knowledge and when he plays defense he can help us.
"Tobias is a great player. He's young, talented, has great upside. I'm a guy who can adapt. every team I've been on I've had to adapt to the players around me and make due. That's what I'm going to continue to do. We can feed each other as far as me getting him open, him creating and forcing double teams and things like that. His IQ is really high and he knows how to play the game. I think it will be an easy adjustment."
The first step, of course, is getting Harris back to the form that had so many Magic fans buzzing at the end of last season. Harris said the main thing is to fel comfortable to go out and compete at the level he is comfortable at competing. It takes a while to get that rhythm back.
Watching was tough for Harris, but it helped him learn to some extent. He may have to fit in more than many expected him to at the beginning of the season. That has been perhaps the biggest adjustment of all so far this season.
"As I have sat back and been on the sideline I realize what our team needs and I realize what I can do to help our team," Harris said. "You have to be a student of the game, watch film on it and evaluate the game out there and evaluate my game also and what I want to work on and the things I want to do. That's how I work on it and that's how I approach it."
The Magic though want Tobias Harris to be more than just a role player. They saw how much he can provide last season at the end of the year when he was (finally) entrusted with the ball and made good things happen.
Harris has a ton to learn still for sure. Vaughn said Harris does a good job playing within the system and not forcing things, but his shooting efficiency could use some improvement and he has to find a way to pick his spots no matter the unit he is with.
His high motor, willingness to work hard and get better and the energy he brings on the court should guarantee that he returns to his summer form.
"I think that's the task. That's the challenge," Vaughn said. "In every player's mind, you want to get back on the floor when you feel comfortable. I think our approach of getting him back on the floor where he has a good conditioning base underneath him, he has a little bit of rhythm. But it will take some time for him to get back on the floor and really feel game situation and game speed and how his teammates are playing. It will take a while."
When Harris does get back to that form, he should be able to provide a lot more to the Magic than he did previously.