Orlando Magic rookie Maurice Harkless has reached another signpost in his return from offseason sports hernia surgery.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan said Harkless has been cleared for full-contact drills with no restrictions, and Harkless today participated fully in a practice from start to finish.
“It feels great to be back,” Harkless said. “I’m excited to get out there. It’s a lot harder now actually getting on the court and doing it instead of watching it. I thought I had everything [down], but I made a lot of mistakes today. But it’s easy to correct.”
Jacque Vaughn said he would proceed cautiously with Harkless, a 19-year-old swingman who played one year of college ball at St. John’s.
Vaughn wants Harkless to feel as comfortable as possible before he’s thrown into game situations. The way Vaughn figures it, Harkless has an entire career ahead of himself, so why rush things?
“He’s a part of us and hopefully a part of us for a long time,” Vaughn said. “So it’s my job as a coach to put him in a position to succeed, and I think that starts off a lot of times with your first interaction of basketball. So I want his first interaction to be a positive situation. I’m going to try and put that in front of him.”
But make no mistake, Magic coaches love Harkless’ potential
The Philadelphia 76ers selected Harkless with the 15th overall pick and eventually sent him to the Magic in the blockbuster deal that brought Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Magic officials think Harkless would’ve been a lottery pick if he had remained at St. John’s for his sophomore year.
Vaughn’s face lit up when he was asked to discuss Harkless’ qualities to reporters Saturday.
These are the descriptions he used: “young,” “athletic,” “willing to learn” and “mobile.”
“Should I keep going?” Vaughn said, smiling. “Do you see my excitement?”
Harkless could push Hedo Turkoglu for minutes as the season progresses.
“I think my biggest strength is my versatility,” Harkless said. “I can do a lot of different things. Today, I got a lot of offensive rebounds. I can shoot. I can take it to the basket. I can rebound and defend. I bring a lot of different things to the table. I have a lot of upside.”
Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.