Kevon Harris never knew when his number would get called last season. He just knew he had to be ready.
His hallmark game came early in the season against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Magic were still dealing with injuries and they turned to their two-way player for some energy.
Harris earned a two-way contract with an energetic and athletic Summer League. He showed his dynamism getting inside. But that was as a star. What really stood out was that he was constantly attacking. He was unrelenting.
And that is what he showed the Warriors that November night, scoring 12 points and grabbing four offensive rebounds, including at least one crucial putback in the Magic’s upset win at the Amway Center.
This game defined who Harris was and why he could be such a critical player for the Magic during their injury-riddled season last year. It defined what makes a two-way player so successful.
Kevon Harris did not have the biggest statistical impact, but the Orlando Magic knew they could count on his energy any time they called his number. That is all you can ask for a two-way player.
Harris did not produce much in stats last year — 4.1 points per game and a 51.4 percent effective field goal percentage in 13.4 minutes per game in 34 appearances. Yet, his presence always felt bigger than those numbers or his relatively limited appearances for the team.
Harris just seemed to work harder than everyone else. And that is the essential task of a two-way player. You do not know when you will get your minutes or where they might come from. You just have to make the most of those minutes when they come.
That is what Harris did. And even though still on a two-way contract (the second of his two-year contract), that is what the Magic expect from Harris again.
"“That’s all I’m looking for is the opportunity and keep seasoning and keep seasoning and keep proving myself every day,” Harris said at media day. “Not only proving to everyone but proving to myself and keep showing the way to all the underdogs.”"
Harris certainly showed that in his lone Summer League game when he scored 21 points and grabbed six rebounds against the Detroit Pistons. That was more than enough for the Magic to see from him. He clearly looked like he had again graduated from that level.
But more than his scoring effort, what stood out was his effort. That is always what stands out about Harris. He gets after players defensively and just is constantly putting himself in a position to make an impact.
That is all anyone can ask for from a two-way player. And the Magic seemed to get all of that and more from him. If there is a model for what a two-way player should be, it is Harris.
Of course, the challenge now for him is finding a way to be more. Nobody can or should want to stay as a two-way player forever. And Harris should be trying to push his way further up the rotation.
He certainly has the right attitude to do so.
"“I would just say just experience and having some experience in the NBA,” Harris said at media day. “Just being a sponge pretty much, gaining all I can get. This summer, paying attention to what I need to work on. I’m planning on making a big leap this season.”"
That big leap has been somewhat interrupted though.
Harris missed every preseason game and at least parts of training camp with a sore right knee — he has already been ruled OUT for Wednesday’s season opener against the Houston Rockets. That has put him something behind the 8-ball. Not that he is too far behind as a holdover from last season.
All of the Magic’s two-way players though will find themselves further down he depth chart too.
On a rebuilding team, it is easier for two-way players to get into the rotation and play regularly. But the Magic seem to be transitioning out of that phase. And they have a fairly full roster. If this team is healthy, it is hard to see Harris getting into the game regularly.
He is going to have to wait for his opportunity again. That is always what two-way players have to do. They have to wait and be ready.
But that will be the thing with Harris: He will be ready. That is something everyone should know about him. He is always ready and waiting for his chance.
That is the model for what a two-way player should be. And Harris is going to be the kind of player the Magic should be looking for to fill this spot moving forward.