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Tobias Harris Finally Coming to Life for Orlando Magic

Despite Dismal Streak, Harris Returning to Form

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | The Orlando Magic will be looking to avoid going winless on their Western Conference road trip Monday night as they visit the Dallas Mavericks.

Orlando is currently 0-4 on the trip with the average margin of defeat coming by more than 20 points. But while the trip to the West Coast has been one to forget for the Magic, one player is slowly beginning to return to form.

One of the few bright spots for the Orlando Magic a season ago was the play of third-year forward Tobias Harris. Harris spent just 27 games with the Magic after being acquired in a trade from Milwaukee for guard J.J. Redick. But in those 27 games, Harris averaged 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game -- All-Star numbers in the Eastern Conference. After missing the beginning of this season with an ankle injury, Harris has been slow to get it all together.

Over Orlando's first 22 games, Harris played just once and put up only six points and a single rebound in a loss to the Phoenix Suns back in late November. After a solid effort against Miami in Orlando's last home game, the five-game road trip to the West Coast didn't get off to the best start for Harris as the third-year forward scored just two points on 1-for-9 shooting in a 20-point loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last Monday. Since then, however, Harris' changed approach seems to have gotten the 6-9 forward into a rhythm offensively.

While Harris appeared passive throughout the early parts of his season, he has begun to be more aggressive. Harris is looking to push more in transition and also seems to be looking for his offense in the halfcourt. In Saturday's 120-94 loss at Denver, Harris scored a season-high 22 points and finished with nine rebounds.

Harris also attempted a season-high 17 field goals and his desire to attack the basket earned him a season-high-tying eight free-throw attempts. In Harris' last three games, his numbers have more closely resembled what he did a season ago with Orlando as the forward has averaged better than 16 points and just shy of eight rebounds per game. Harris has also shot the ball at a 45 percent clip over that stretch, which is about what he shot with the Magic a season ago.

At 6-9 and 235 pounds, Harris is a wide body and very athletic. Too often this season, however, Harris has seemed unsure of his role in an offense that features a lot of faces that Harris didn't spend much time with on the court a season ago. Harris relied more on his outside shot earlier in the year, but is beginning to use his full arsenal once again.

When Harris is at the top of his game, the Orlando Magic are certainly a more entertaining to watch. If Harris can become the player that he was a season ago for Orlando and rookie Victor Oladipo can continue his hot play of late, the Magic can, as head coach Jacque Vaughn had hoped, become a team that pushes the tempo.

Though this road trip for the Magic has been nothing short of a disaster, Harris has been a bright spot. With the possibility of dealing veterans at the trade deadline a reality for Orlando, the fact that younger players like Harris, Oladipo and even Maurice Harkless have come to life during this trip out west should provide Orlando some comfort.

While Orlando has very high hopes for Oladipo and Harkless, Harris appeared to be a steal in the Redick deal a season ago and after a rough start to the season, is beginning to look like one yet again.

Mike Ferguson is a Central Florida native and an Orlando Magic contributor for Yahoo Sports.

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