Harkless and Harris say the Magic's young nucleus improved during offseason

Orlando Sentinel

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS — Orlando Magic teammates Maurice Harkless and Tobias Harris stood in front of a movie theater filled with children Wednesday afternoon, and Harris asked, “Who’s got the best grades?”

Many of the kids raised their hands. One girl belted out, “I’ve got all A’s!”

Harris and Harkless were hosting kids from the Altamonte Springs Boys & Girls Club and the Rosemont Community Center, and together they watched an advance screening of the animated movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2.”

A few days from now, the Magic will begin training camp, and Harris, Harkless and the rest of their teammates will be the center of attention.

“We all improved a lot, and we’re looking forward to the season starting,” Harkless said.

Last season, the young Magic took their lumps on the court, finishing with the NBA’s worst record, 20-62.

The squad isn’t expected to contend for a playoff spot in the year ahead. At the very least, team officials hope their young nucleus of Harkless, Harris, Andrew Nicholson, Victor Oladipo, Kyle O’Quinn, Doron Lamb and Nik Vucevic make strides.

Harkless is just 20 years old, and his youth is underscored by the fact that he’s gotten taller since he joined the Magic as a rookie a year ago. The team now says he's 6-feet-9, and the listing seems legit.

“A couple of years ago, I was one of these kids who looked up to NBA guys and just wanted to be around them,” Harkless said. “It’s great to be able to put a smile on these kids’ faces.”

Harris, a combo forward, is only 21.

On Wednesday afternoon, however, Harkless and Harris flashed back to when they were children — a time that wasn't all that long ago.

Wearing 3-D glasses, they settled into seats alongside the kids just before the movie started.

“I remember when I was a kid,” Harris said. “If I met a professional athlete, smiles were on my face all week.”

Josh Robbins covers the Orlando Magic and the NBA for the Orlando Sentinel. You can reach him via e-mail at jbrobbins@tribune.com and connect with him on Facebook at facebook.com/JoshuaBRobbins. Follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.

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