Time for Magic to start Harkless

Harkless would fill SF role with Turk out

Even though the Magic point toward the future, there's no time like the present to start teenage rookie Maurice Harkless.

Pencil him in the lineup.

See how it will go for Moe.

This is the right time, the right situation.

The Magic are rebuilding and developing players. They should plug Harkless into a problematic small-forward spot that is missing veteran Hedo Turkoglu.

Turk sustained a broken hand during the season-opener, then had a setback which will keep him out for another month.

Coach Jacque Vaughn said he doesn't want to put pressure on Harkless, the No. 15 draft pick. Vaughn seemingly is willing to bring him along slowly, especially after he missed the preseason recovering from sports hernia surgery in August.

Harkless, 19, is now healthy and giving superstar Carmelo Anthony fits.

Fact is, Vaughn already has started another rookie twice at the 3 during Turk's absence – DeQuan Jones, an undrafted camp discovery.

Heading into Friday night's game at Detroit, the coach has given the nod to two other players as well – Arron Afflalo and Josh McRoberts.

Shuffling Afflalo from the 2 to the 3 and starting J.J. Redick at shooting guard might give the Magic more ball movement and scoring, but the move makes them smaller. McRoberts, 6-10, is a heady player but not known as a defender.

There's an argument that if the 6-8 Harkless struggles as a starter, the experience will ruin his confidence.

So what happens to him if he struggles coming off the bench?

If Harkless wasn't ready for an NBA court, he shouldn't get a uniform on game nights, whether he's 19 or 29. But he is going to play – that's clear.

And isn't this season about player development? With coaches showering him with positive vibes and treating him with kid gloves – this is now the Magic way – what's the difference? Why not start him?

It's not like the club is going anywhere.

Harkless certainly doesn't have to carry the load – or any load, really. He can learn on the job and make mistakes common for youngsters.

(His youth is reflected on his Twitter account, when he re-tweets, "I wish I wasn't too old to trick-or-treat." The photo on his profile, appropriately enough, seems to have been taken when Harkless was nine or 10 years old.)

The thing about Harkless is that under this outwardly nice, humble exterior is a kid who is quietly wondering why he isn't starting or at least playing more.

Against the Knicks on Tuesday night, he scored 10 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots – three of them coming against Anthony, his boyhood hero.