Tobias Harris thriving since being dealt to Magic

Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic defends against

Tobias Harris of the Orlando Magic defends against J.R. Smith of the Knicks. (March 20, 2013) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

Tobias Harris was asked if he remembered how much playing time he had in his last game at Madison Square Garden.

"Like one minute and 32 seconds,'' he estimated with disappointment. "I definitely was upset after that game. But I knew things would get better for me as a player.''

They did. Since Feb. 1, when Harris last played in his hometown, much has changed.

His jersey: From the purple and green of the Milwaukee Bucks to the black and blue of the Orlando Magic.

His role: From a seldom used reserve getting an occasional DNP to a starting power forward recording an occasional double-double.

And his statistics: From averaging 4.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in 11.6 minutes per game with Milwaukee to 15.0 points and 7.5 rebounds in 31.1 minutes with Orlando.

The former Half Hollow Hills West star, who was named Newsday's boys basketball player of the year in 2010, has thrived since being traded to Orlando in February.

Last night he went 7-for-10 from the field, tied for a team-high 14 points -- his fourth time leading the Magic in scoring -- and grabbed five rebounds in 31 minutes as the Magic fell, 106-94, to the Knicks.

"If you talk to people who know him, they've always said he has the ability to score the basketball and play at a high level,'' Magic coach Jacques Vaughn said. "What do you do when your opportunity presents itself? He's done a good job of seizing the moment and taking advantage of it.''

Drafted 19th overall out of Tennessee by the Bobcats in 2010 and traded to the Bucks that day, the 20-year-old Harris was shipped to Orlando in a package for J.J. Redick at the trade deadline last month. Opportunity presented itself with a rebuilding Magic team and Harris quickly earned his way into the starting lineup.

"I was surprised at first that the trade went down,'' Harris said. "Once I knew there was a chance for me to get out there and play and have an opportunity, I was very fortunate for that and I was excited.''

The 6-8 Harris has played multiple positions and causes mismatches with his ability to run the floor, create his own shot or shoot from the perimeter.

"It's about my coaches and teammates really trusting my game,'' Harris said.

In three games at the Garden before Wednesday night, Harris totaled nine minutes and scored two points. He was happy to return to New York to show that much has changed.

"I'm looking to embrace the opportunity,'' Harris said, "and just go out and play a great game.''

He got more than one minute and 32 seconds to do so.

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