Last year as Summer League began, Kevon Harris did not know if he had an NBA future.
He suited up for the Minnesota Timberwolves as a bit of an undersized shooting guard who needed to make a name for himself. He had to play his way into the NBA. And an impressive Summer League would go a long way for him.
Harris was a bowling bowl that Summer League. He might have been on the smaller side, but he always played bigger, flying in for offensive rebounds and dazzling dunks on drives.
Harris was extremely impressive and ultimately one of the standouts of Summer League.
The Orlando Magic snapped him up and signed him to a two-way contract.
The rest felt like history as Harris immediately became a contributor in his limited minutes helping turn several games in the Orlando Magic’s favor on his energy alone (remember the win over the Golden State Warriors at Amway Center early in the season?). Orlando nearly ran out of time they could use him under the limits of the two-way contract.
That is the experience the Magic certainly need as they prepare for another Summer League.
The Orlando Magic are leaning on Summer League veterans in Kevon Harris and Caleb Houstan to help guide their young roster to make the most of the time in Las Vegas.
Harris is back in Las Vegas, this time with the Magic, to expand and grow on what he accomplished during his first season with Orlando. More than that though, Harris now gets to act like the veteran for a young Magic team who need to learn and find out what this franchise is all about and how best to take advantage of the Summer League opportunity.
"“I came out here [last year] with a purpose to prove I could be in the NBA and deserved to be on an NBA team and could help any team,” Harris said after practice on Thursday. “I got the job done. Same approach this summer to come out and prove something. Show what the Magic can do and lead these young guys.”"
Harris last year averaged 15.8 points per game to get some real notice around the league. The counting stats were certainly impressive but what got him his spot in the NBA was his hard-nosed defense and energy.
That might be the most important message someone like Harris could spread to his teammates as they prepare for Summer League.
Success in Summer League is not necessarily based on your statistical production, it is based on what you show you can contribute to a regular-season team. That means teams are watching the energy and intensity a player is playing with.
Certainly, teams are looking at how quickly and how effectively players integrate coaching and understand new concepts.
That is where players like Kevon Harris and second-year player Caleb Houstan — and even fifth-year NBA pro D.J. Wilson — are vital for the young players on this team trying to make their way. Orlando still has two two-way contract slots to fill. So there is some internal competition ongoing — in addition to, as Harris proved, auditioning for the rest of the league.
Orlando certainly has its eyes on the two-way contract slots at Summer League, but they are also interested in making sure their rookies, Anthony Black and Jett Howard, start their careers on the right foot.
Coach Jamahl Mosley said Monday that both Kevon Harris and Caleb Houstan have taken the young players to the side to help instruct and fill in gaps as they get up to speed.
"“I feel like just one trying to lead by example,” Houstan said after practice Thursday. “Just try to do the right thing, be loud on defense and try to be in the right spot. And then just helping out where I can. If I see something where I can show them something real quick, pull them to the side, tell them something. Any way I can help. I know what it’s like not knowing too much.”"
Black and Howard certainly need that instruction having never been in the NBA before. Houstan said he felt significantly more comfortable heading into his second Summer League than he did last year.
Last year, he said, he did not really know what he was doing. After a year of even limited action on the court, Houstan said he feels much more comfortable with what the Magic are looking for from him and what to expect.
He is trying to impart that to his rookie teammates and lead by example for everyone on the roster. To be sure, players like Harris and Houstan are leaders on this Summer League team.
"“I know how big it is for us and especially for those guys just teaching them the way and how we do things and how the NBA game is played,” Harris said after practice Thursday. “Just lead by example. Anything I can help them with and lead them in any way. Just trying to bring that out here every day.”"
No one knows the power of this more than Harris.
He entered last year’s Summer League with no guarantees. He earned every opportunity he got from earning the two-way contract to becoming a reliable player for the Magic last year.
That experience and know-how is as valuable as anything else the Magic have this year at Summer League.