Six weeks ago, while Tobias Harris looked to unglue himself from Milwaukee’s bench, Bucks coach Jim Boylan lauded the way Monta Ellis battled on defense against J.J. Redick. Now, Ellis and Redick are teammates — battling, if anything, for minutes — and Harris finds himself playing 30 minutes per game in the Magic’s starting lineup.
How quickly things can change in the NBA.
The Bucks (32-32; 6-5 since the trade) will look to snap a three-game skid and avoid falling below .500 for the third time this season. Meanwhile, the Magic (18-48) have won only three games since last month’s trade and are fully committed to developing their young core of Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Moe Harkless, Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn — who are all under the age of 24. With the departure of Dwight Howard, the Magic have struggled mightily all season and have an average point differential of -6.4, which ranks second-to-last in the NBA.
When Redick was asked Wednesday whether it would be odd playing against his former Orlando team, he replied:
“I used to say this when I was with Orlando and people would ask me about playing former teammates: ‘There’s nothing weird about it, because every year you’re playing against different guys.’ You know, it’s the NBA. You change teams. I was over it after three or four days. I’ll be excited to see everybody, but it’s not going to be weird or anything.”
Harris seems to share Redick’s indifferent attitude about the matchup. Via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:
‘They did what they did,’ Harris said Saturday after the Magic finished practice at Marquette University.
‘That was the trade they wanted to make. So, obviously, they didn’t think it was a mistake. So as a player, I’m just going out there and I’m just going to play my game, play with my teammates and have fun out on the basketball court.’
Robbins’ article mentions that Harris still keeps in contact with several former teammates — including Marquis Daniels, Drew Gooden, John Henson, Joel Przybilla and Larry Sanders. The 20-year-old forward was also complimentary of Bucks fans and, perhaps surprisingly, former head coach Scott Skiles.
Harris is thriving in his enhanced role with the Magic. In addition to playing small forward, he’s seeing substantial minutes at power forward — a position the Bucks scarcely used him in, though one he was well-acquainted with at Tennessee. Harris has responded to his versatile, featured role with the Magic, averaging 18.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. He’s also having unprecedented success from beyond the arc, hitting 40.6 percent of his three attempts per game, en route to 58.2 true shooting percentage.
Redick, meanwhile, has aided in Ellis’ sudden renaissance and provides Boylan with plenty of flexibility in the guard rotation. Aside from dips in three-point percentage, rebounding and assists — the last of which is result of less play-making responsibilities — Redick’s numbers have been largely identical since joining the Bucks. In 10 games, he’s averaging 14.2 points per game on an incredibly efficient 59.9 true shooting percentage.
Most of the attention will be on Redick and Harris, but this a significant game for the Bucks in their quest to move up in the standings and avert the Heat in the first round. Every win counts the same. And although the Bucks are nine-point favorites over the Magic as of Saturday night, who knows what can happen with a little luck of the Irish.
*The game will not be locally televised
Projected Starting Lineups
Bucks: Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Marquis Daniels, Ersan Ilyasova, Larry Sanders
Magic: Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo, Moe Harkless, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic
- Luc Mbah a Moute (turf toe), who has missed the last two games with injury, won’t play Sunday.
- Hedo Turkoglu won’t be available, as he continues to serve a 20-game suspension after testing positive for steroids.
- Glen Davis is out with a broken left foot.
- Andrew Nicholson, who missed his last game with a stomach ailment, didn’t practice Saturday and might not play Sunday.
Pre-Trade/Post-Trade Stats Comparison
(Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith omitted due to lack of games played)
J.J. Redick – Consistency
Tobias Harris — Seizing the Opportunity
Beno Udrih — Less Impressive Consistency