Orlando's Maxiell and Harkless accomplish their goals in a 97-91 loss to Memphis

At this stage of his career, Jason Maxiell doesn't need a spot start to boost his confidence. He's about to begin his ninth NBA season, and he knows his role with the rebuilding Orlando Magic. Team officials expect him to provide energy off the bench and positively influence the team's young players.

Maurice Harkless' situation is different. Just 20 years old, the Magic need him to make significant progress in the season ahead, and he'll receive every opportunity to play extensively.

On Friday night, in a 97-91 preseason loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Harkless and Maxiell each met expectations. Harkless showed a few improved facets to his game, while Maxiell provided grit in his matchup against rugged Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph.

"When someone wants to get physical, I'm the guy for the job," said Maxiell, who finished with five points and four rebounds after he started at power forward. "Matching up with Zach is my type of night for me. I know it's only the preseason, but it's going to be a long night no matter how it is with him."

Harkless now has started all of Orlando's preseason games at small forward, and on Friday, he scored 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting with no turnovers. He displayed improved ball-handling skills and a better shooting touch.

Harkless, who is 6-feet-9, is more comfortable putting the ball on the floor and slashing to the rim than he was last season as a rookie. Midway through the second quarter, he drove through the lane and finished with a layup. A couple of minutes later, he sank a jumper from 16 feet.

"I'm pretty pleased," Harkless said. "But I've still got a lot of work to do. It's a long process."

In July, the Magic signed Maxiell to a two-year, $5 million deal that is fully guaranteed for the 2013-14 season and fully unguaranteed for the 2014-15 season if the team waives him before mid-July next year.

During his eight seasons with the Detroit Pistons, Maxiell earned a reputation as a hard-nosed player who willingly mixed it up down low even though he's undersized at 6-feet-7.

Maxiell lived up to that reputation Friday. He scored the game's opening basket on a jumper from the left elbow. A short while later, he sent a soft pass to Harkless as Harkless cut across the lane. Harkless made the layup.

Maxiell can do a bit of everything, but the Magic want him to focus most on dirty work around the hoop.

"I thought he did a good job of giving resistance to Randolph," coach Jacque Vaughn said. "That's important for our team. I think he has a physicality and a presence about himself."

An announced crowd of 13,041 at Amway Center saw Magic rookie guard Victor Oladipo begin shakily but improve as the game went on.

He missed a couple of driving layups, leaving him shaking his head slightly in frustration. He also committed a pair of early turnovers against the Grizzlies' on-ball pressure.

But Oladipo recovered. He didn't commit another turnover. In the second quarter, he made a backdoor cut and received a pass from the high post from Kyle O'Quinn; Oladipo caught the ball and dunked.

Oladipo finished with a game-high 22 points as he went two for three from 3-point range and eight for eight from the free-throw line.

"I want to be great," Oladipo said. "I'm not satisfied at all. These guys aren't either. They want to be great, too. We want the organization to be great. But we've got to realize it's not going to happen overnight."

Harkless played the entire fourth quarter.

He punctuated his night with a three-point play: a dunk off a backdoor cut and the subsequent foul shot.

For him, every minute counts.

Even in the preseason.


Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad