Orlando Magic News & Notes: April 16
The Orlando Magic were defeated by the Chicago Bulls 102-84 Monday night.
The loss, coupled with a Charlotte Bobcats victory over the New York Knicks, put the Magic into a tie for the worst record in the NBA heading into the final day of the season Wednesday.
Clearly it’s been a rough season for the Magic, but there were still many highlights.
Harkless has done well enough to allow Orlando’s front office to look at other areas to address this offseason.
Harkless’ rookie season would have to be considered a success what with the immense growth that he’s shown offensively and the all-star challenges he’s had to take on each night on the defensive end. His scoring average has risen each of the past three months – 11.4 ppg. in February, 13 ppg. in March and 13.1 ppg. in April – while also checking some of the game’s greatest players. He scored a career-best 28 points earlier this month in Houston, coming within two points of becoming the youngest player in Magic history to hit the 30-point plateau. Overall, he’s scored in double figures 27 times, had four 20-point games and he’s led the team in scoring four times.
This is where it bears repeating that Harkless is still just 19 years old and could have been a sophomore in college had he not opted for the NBA early. The grind of the season has challenged him mentally as well as physically, but he’s learned ways to battle through the NBA’s marathon season.
Sticking with the awards theme, Philip Rossman-Reich of Orlando Magic Daily believes Nikola Vucevic is a legitimate contender for Most Improved Player, an award then Magic forward Ryan Anderson won last year:
Vucevic has been a vastly improved player and is certainly worthy of consideration for the award. All his numbers have increased, particularly his raw numbers which is a product of playing time in many ways. The thing that may keep him from winning as many commentators have stated is his team’s record. A player on a 20-win team is not likely to win these awards.
Vucevic gets the nod for doubling his points and rebounds over his rookie season in Philadelphia. Traded south as part of the Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum-Andre Iguodala four-team deal, Vucevic is second in the league in rebounding (11.9 rpg, behind only Howard) and is shooting 51.7 percent for the otherwise woeful Magic. Vucevic grabbed a season-high 29 boards with 20 points for the Magic against Miami in December, and has 44 double-doubles, tied for third in the league.
Vucevic and Harkless will get better, as will versatile forward Tobias Harris, who was acquired at the trade deadline for impending free agent J.J. Redick. As much as Hennigan might have loved the idea of keeping Redick, his summer payday would have added a good chunk of salary to the books of a rebuilding team already lacking in cap space. Harris, 20, provides the potential for production and lineup flexibility on a much more affordable deal.
The New York Knicks bolstered their playoff playing rotation on Tuesday by adding Quentin Richardson. The Orlando Magic waived the veteran swingman in training camp, choosing to give his roster spot to undrafted rookieDeQuan Jones instead. Orlando was still on the hook for the money it owed Richardson–$7.37 million, according to ShamSports–over the 2012/13 and 2013/14 seasons, but decided that getting a long-term look at Jones’ potential was worth eating Richardson’s salary.
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