The Orlando Magic found a gem when they traded for Tobias Harris, but now they’re in danger of breaking him. Harris suffered a high ankle sprain in a pre-season game against the Detroit pistons three months ago but still hasn’t fully recovered. Instead of letting the injury completely heal the Magic have decided to let Harris play through the pain, a move that may have serious long-term consequences.
“It took a big toll on me, but I’m still fighting through pain in my ankle day in and day out and in every game,” Harris told NBA.com’s John Denton. “Its just probably going to be a thing that’s going to last all year.”
For a team that’s clearly tanking it’s fair to wonder why the Magic would risk further injury to one of their brightest prospects. The ankle is clearly affecting his play. Through 16 games Harris is averaging 12.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, a far cry from the 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds that he averaged after being traded to the Magic last season. His shooting percentages have also fallen drastically. He’s hitting only 40% of his shots from the floor and 20.4% from behind the three-point line. Instead of driving to the basket and testing his ankle, Harris is being tentative and settling for inefficient long jumpers. Developing those bad habits now could seriously hurt his long-term value.
Sixteen games is enough time for a player to find his rhythm, his problems are clearly more than just rust. While game reps are important for a young player’s development, needing to take games off between games maybe hurting Harris’ progress. He is a young player who needs to spend time in the gym working on his conditioning. He needs to trim the baby fat to be able to effectively guard small forwards and needs to add strength to be able to bang down low in the post. If he can’t practice because he’s too sore from playing, those game reps are meaningless.
Unfortunately, the team is encouraging Harris to play. “The great thing is that he’s trying to be out there on the floor for his team,” coach Jacque Vaughn said. “No one at this point is playing at a 100 percent level. You play through some pain and you give him credit for being on the floor for his teammates—if he can.” It’s a shortsighted strategy for a team with long-term aspirations.
What do you think? Should Tobias Harris be playing? Or should he rest his ankle until it’s 100%? Let us know in the comments section below!