Orlando Magic restricted free agent Tobias Harris was expected to get an offer sheet from the Knicks and Lakers this summer. Other teams were intrigued by his length and offensive polish. Whether any team was a real threat isn’t known, but it doesn’t really matter now after Real GM’s Shams Charania first reported the Magic and Harris had purportedly agreed on a four-year deal that will pay him $64 million, the maximum allowable.
Before the deal was agreed upon during the NBA’s moratorium period — nothing can be official until July 9 — many Orlando observers wondered if Orlando’s hiring of former Bucks coach and Magic player, Scott Skiles, might have unforeseen consequences in re-signing Harris.
In Tobias’ rookie campaign in Milwaukee, Skiles only played him 11.4 minutes per contest in the 42 games which he appeared. In his sophomore season, it didn’t get any better, with Harris playing only 11.6 minutes per game, sitting behind Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson. But then the Bucks traded for the expiring deal of J.J. Redick, and Harris could finally spread his wings on a bad Orlando team.
In 35.1 minutes per game during the second half of that season, he averaged 17.3 points on 46.1 percent shooting from the floor. So, does Harris harbor any ill-will towards his coach in Milwaukee those first one and a half years in the Association? According to what he told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, Harris has already spoken to Scott and they’re cool. In fact, Tobias thinks Skiles is the “perfect coach for our team.”
“First off, me and Scott have a great relationship,” Harris said. “What people don’t understand is that when he first coached me, I was 18 years old. And from 18 to being about to turn 23 now, I’m a completely different player. Even in Milwaukee, where I didn’t play as much, we still had a great dialogue. He just wanted me to work harder. He just said, ‘Your time is coming.’ So he was always encouraging for me.
“Today, we communicated. He wants me to be a leader. He wants me to lead. He’s a fantastic coach. I think he’s the perfect coach for our team. Actually, I know he’s the perfect coach for our team. And he’s a coach I want to play for. He’s a fiery guy. He gets after you. He has that passion to win, that fire to win. Me and him, we have no problems. That passion, that’s the passion that I play with, so that’s what I love in a coach.”
Skiles might have the “passion” and the Magic roots — he still holds the NBA single game record for assists when he dished 30 of them while playing for the Magic in 1990 — but he’s been known to wear on NBA players, speaking down to them like a college coach might. With a young group, his taskmaster routine could motivate them to a playoff berth in the East, but at the same time that passion can wear thin over time.
We’ll see how it goes in Orlando, who after adding Harris now sport a decent core locked up (some with team options) with Victor Oladipo at guard, Elfrid Payton at point, Channing Frye spreading the floor at the four, Harris at the small forward slot (with Aaron Gordon coming off the bench in either role) and Nikola Vucevic a possible all-star candidate at center next year in the East.
Whether Skiles can shape them into a winning basketball team, is the biggest question of all, but at least he and Tobias are cool — for now, at least.