Maurice Harkless’ World Cup Absence Leaves Puerto Ricans Confused
Orlando Magic wing player Maurice Harkless will not be playing for Puerto Rico in the FIBA World Cup that takes places in Spain beginning on August 30th, as reported by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Robbins communicated with Harkless’ agent, Happy Walters, and below is a quote from Walters on why his client won’t be playing for Puerto Rico:
“He is 100 percent focused on getting better every day. He felt that although representing Puerto Rico would be an invaluable experience, it was not realistic to think that he could work on his game within a team atmosphere the way he could by staying here.”
During the 2013-14 Magic season, Harkless averaged 7.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 24.4 minutes per contest. It’s safe to say that Maurice’s responsibilities with the Puerto Rican squad would have risen significantly from what he’s accustomed to in Orlando. Practicing and developing stronger chemistry with Magic teammates is fantastic, but you can’t replace the experience of taking part in international competition. It’s a different brand of basketball, something that teaches you lessons you won’t learn in any other environment. Hopefully it’s not something Maurice regrets in the future. This upcoming season is indeed crucial in determining what the 21-year-old’s future with the franchise will look like.
The Puerto Rican Basketball Federation is confused to say the least in regards to Harkless’ absence. Back in January, Harkless met with Puerto Rican team officials. Maurice from then on was assumed to be a lock to join the roster during the NBA offseason.
The Basketball Federation’s President, Carlos Beltran, was interviewed by PrimeraHora.com on Monday and he doesn’t hide the Puerto Rican team’s frustrations. In the article, Beltran explains how they made a final ditch effort at getting Harkless to agree to join the Puerto Rican team. Beltran says they contacted Harkess’ agent on Monday, but obviously to no avail with Tuesday’s news that Harkless won’t be playing.
The first true sign of distress apparently came a few months ago. Harkless was supposed to fly out to Puerto Rico on May 26th in what was to be a trip that would have lasted a few days. The 6′ 9″ New York Native ended up not going as he declined the reserved plane tickets. Communication between the two parties dropped off significantly since then and the relationship hasn’t repaired itself. Here’s a translated Beltran quote that almost alleges possible Magic team involvement:
“I honestly do not know what happened. Everything was going great and now Harkless canceled the trip and everything is complicated. Since then everything has been more difficult. We do not know if the pressure of the Orlando Magic team or the people around him, but communication has not flowed as before. Was a little frustrating, “Beltran said.
It’s not an accusation that the Magic got involved, but clearly Beltran wants answers from someone. This wouldn’t be the first time that a player was allegedly kept away from fulfilling national team duties. The San Antonio Spurs are currently preventing Manu Ginobili from making the trip to Spain in late August and play for Argentina. Ginobili is coming off another NBA title but is also healing from injury. There have been numerous similar situations over the years in which a player’s club/team has held back or discouraged their paid player from participating in national team duty. It’s been an ongoing tug of war affair for decades. Every owner, coach, player, has a different viewpoint on this issue, and there are appropriate arguments for either side. Hopefully we will see Harkless participating in international competition one day.