Ed Szczepanski/USA TODAY
The last two games have been odd for Maurice Harkless.
Against Chicago, Harkless played more than 45 minutes in the triple overtime play, yet he took just one field goal attempt (and two free throw attempts). That one field attempt and make came in overtime. Against Charlotte on Friday, Harkless also took one field goal attempt in a little more than 12 minutes of play.
The performance Wednesday night was among rare performances. Only seven players since 1985 have played 45 minutes in a game and taken one or fewer field goals. Horace Grant was actually one of those players, playing 46 minutes and missing his only shot in a 107-95 loss to the Jazz in March 1995 (one of two home losses that year).
When noting how strange it has been for Harkless to be on the floor so long, it is tough to explain.
It has been a strange little stretch for Harkless, who has gone in and out of the rotation and seen his minutes go up and down throughout the season.
The big focus for Harkless this season has been on becoming a more confident offensive player. Of course, that does not necessarily mean just shooting the ball.
"With the flow of the offense, the ball wasn't coming my way. That's all," Harkless said.
"[I'm] just trying to find a way to make an impact. Having games like the past couple where I don't have the ball in my hands a lot, just not letting it effect me the other end. Still locking in defensively and making sure I make things happen on the defensive end of the floor."
When Jacque Vaughn is asked about Harkless and his growing game on the offensive end, this is often where he turns. He turns to Harkless' play and energy on the defensive end and the things he does that do not necessarily show up on a box score. The Magic do not run a lot of plays for him — Wednesday's offensive gameplan centered around pick and rolls in the middle of the floor for Jameer Nelson and Victor Oladipo and they combined for 66 points on their own.
So for a young player — remember he is just 20 years old in his second year in the NBA — focusing on these other parts of the game can be tough. Particularly with the yo-yo of playing time Harkless has received.
"His minutes have been good while he has been on the floor," Jacque Vaughn said. "I think during the stretch of our road trip, he did some good things on teh floor. The point is, at the end of the day, what is going to help your team win. Some nights it's going to be scoringa nd some nights it's just going to be running the floor so hard that the defender has to keep up with me. That's good enough."
That has been a big part of the learning process for Harkless. Really for all young players it is constantly learning to do what the coaches need you to do and to fit into a role as a team.
Harkless has had to adjust constantly to his changing role as his confidence and consistency develop. He has had 12 games this year with 10 or more points. That is off his pace of the 29 he posted last year. It feels like he has improved his play and gotten better, but he has not brought those results to the floor. He, as much as anyone on this Magic roster, is still growing as a player.
He feels he has improved in those moments though when he doesn't have the ball in contributing to the team. While his numbers do not suggest it, he has continued growing.
"I think I've done a better job this year of trying to keep that focus when I'm not getting touches," Harkless said. "I think last year I probably would have been down a lot. This year, I think I've done a better job playing through it just because at the end of the day I want to win and do whatever I can."