Kevon Harris makes his impact on Orlando Magic by staying ready

Kevon Harris has stepped back into the rotation after a long absence and has helped the Orlando Magic build out their defense. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kevon Harris has stepped back into the rotation after a long absence and has helped the Orlando Magic build out their defense. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The life of a two-way player in the NBA can be a tricky one. They are already limited in the number of games they can play for their parent club, but they also can be called on at any time to step in and help the team out.

Kevon Harris has had to answer that call several times. And with a two-year, two-way contract, the Orlando Magic have made some investment in him already. He is going to be a part of this team even if it is happening in the background for a little while longer.

What Harris has not been of late is playing for Orlando, at least.

But that is the biggest part of life as a two-way player. They are the star of their G-League teams in one moment, then they are needed to fill in for practice or be the grinder and role player for the parent club the next.

The point is Harris has had to be ready for any and everything in his rookie season and his first year on a two-way contract. He has had to be ready to go at a moment’s notice all while making his impact.

Kevon Harris has made a solid impression in his rookie year. But playing time has been sparse. When the Orlando Magic call his number, Harris always remains ready.

The preparation that comes before the game helps him continue to make an impact when his number is called.

"“I’m always antsy to get out there,” Harris said after shootaround Thursday. “That’s kind of normal for me. I’m always ready to play. I feel like that has helped us a lot this year.”“You never know when your name is going to get called especially on a two-way. I just have to stay ready every game and seize the opportunity whenever I get in. Be ready to bring energy and bring that spark that we need.”"

He has not played a ton recently, which makes his recent run of play all the more impressive.

Except for nearly seven minutes of mop-up duty in the loss to the San Antonio Spurs, Harris had not played for the parent club since Feb. 3 before he rejoined the rotation Saturday against the LA Clippers. He has appeared in only three Magic games since Dec. 21 before stepping in during the second quarter of Saturday’s game.

This is a byproduct of the team getting healthier, especially at guard.

The team certainly scaled back his participation to try to preserve his eligibility under the two-way rules. And Harris logged plenty of time in the G-Leauge in the meantime — he is averaging 18.9 points per game while shooting 51.4 percent and 38.4 percent from beyond the arc.

That, of course, is not Harris’ role with the Magic.

They have leaned on him as an energy player off the bench. They have put him out there to provide pressure defensively and make energy plays — even putbacks and offensive rebounds and even blocked shots like the incredible chase-down block he had against the Washington Wizards on Tuesday.

Harris has had numerous energy plays like this one. And Tuesday, specifically, he was key in holding Bradley Beal to a 4-for-15 shooting night.

Coach Jamahl Mosley admitted before Tuesday’s game that part of why Kevon Harris rejoined the rotation was to try to simulate what the team gets from defensive ace Jalen Suggs. Suggs has missed the last three games in concussion protocols (Suggs has moved onto the contact stage of the concussion protocols and was doing on-court work after the team’s shootaround Thursday).

Harris has stepped in and made that impact defensively. What he does goes beyond scoring — he has scored only four points and shot 2 for 6 including a 1-for-5 performance in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers — but he has proven himself defensively to get after players.

That is something the Magic know they can turn to when needed.

"“I think it’s so important for guys to continue to stay ready,” Mosley said after shootaround Thursday. “You don’t know when your number is going to be called, you make sure you are ready to go.“[Harris has] been great. His tenacity getting after the basketball and being able to guard multiple guys and multiple positions. Sometimes he is so far into the basketball, he doesn’t want to switch off of guys and throws other people for a loop. He does a great job with that because of his aggression and because he wants to make it difficult for the opponent.”"

Jamahl Mosley said Kevon Harris spends time with assistant coach Lionel Chalmers reviewing tape to keep himself locked in on game plans and learn what other teams have been doing. That is what he has had to do waiting for a chance to rejoin the rotation.

His defensive impact has been clear.

In the 40 minutes he has played in the last four games, the Magic have a 95.1 defensive rating with Harris on the floor. The team’s defense has overall bounced back giving up just 110.6 points per 100 possessions in the last four games.

Orlando’s offense may struggle as Kevon Harris gets his offensive rhythm back — and the team adjusts and tinkers with the bench rotation having played Goga Bitadze as the backup center over Moe Wagner for two of those games — but there is some undeniable defensive impact coming from Harris. The tape certainly reveals that with the effort and the physicality he brings.

That is what everyone sees in Harris at a minimum and his clear role for this team. That is the role Harris has embraced when he sees the court.

"“I feel like I’m a huge piece,” Harris said after shootaround Thursday. “I bring a lot of energy especially when things get flat out there. I try to be a spark off the bench. I feel like that is a big part of us winning.”"

This latest stint is likely going to end once Suggs clears the protocols. That is the nature of being the team’s two-way guy.

Next. Orlando Magic are living, growing in close games. dark

Still, with every chance Harris gets on the floor, everyone can see what he can do and the positive impact he can make. That is a credit to Harris embracing this opportunity and most importantly staying ready.

This team knows that when his number is called, he will answer it.