Sixers' pick Harkless gets first taste of NBA
ORLANDO – The dog days of summer always include summer league basketball, and with that comes the Sixers playing five games over the next five days at the Amway Center in Orlando.
Young prospects took the court for the Sixers in the final game of action on Monday, including Maurice Harkless, who was selected 15th overall in last month’s draft.
Early in the first quarter, Harkless kept an offensive possession alive when he dove on the floor and saved a ball from going out of bounds to a teammate. He made two of five field goal attempts in 13 first-half minutes. The St. John’s product logged 10 more minutes in the second half while finishing with nine points and five rebounds in a 69-63 loss to the Indiana Pacers.
Harkless was able to get involved in the action despite dealing with a left hip flexor, which he suffered about six weeks ago during a workout.
“It felt alright,” Harkless said of the injury. “It happened in early April, but because of all my workouts I just had to play through it. Then, I had a little recoup time and like coach said, that was really the first time for me to get up and down.”
“I thought he did well out there and we had him play multiple positions,” said Sixers assistant coach Aaron McKie. “I liked what I saw. He is just 19. He just has to get used to the speed of the game, the strength of the game. He just needs practice time to understand that was a pretty strong team, strong perimeters and strong inside play.”
The Pacers’ summer league squad, like the regular season and playoff version, used its muscle for all four quarters.
Harkless agreed that the physicality is an obvious difference from the college level to the pro ranks.
“Definitely a lot more physical and guys are a lot stronger, but I’ll get myself in the weight room and I’ll make that adjustment,” Harkless said. “My goal this week is to get in shape, get up and down, have fun and show what I can do.”
“He is going to be a heck of a defender moving his feet,” McKie added. “He has to work on the nuances at the offensive end but those things will come. I look at him like an Andre (Iguodala). I hate to compare guys like that, but with his athleticism and length he is going to be able to guard multiple positions.”
Arnett Moultrie, the Sixers’ other first-round snare in this year’s draft, is with the team but won’t be playing because of a sprained right ankle he suffered in a pre-draft workout as well.
Some names familiar to Sixers fans joined the two draftees with the team. Xavier Silas, the free-agent guard who was on the Sixers’ playoff roster, Jrue Holiday’s older brother Justin and Zack Rosen, the unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year.
Silas scored 10 points in a team-high 27:03 minutes. Holiday had 10 points and seven rebounds, while Rosen did not play. The Sixers were led in scoring by Jacob Pullen out of Kansas State, who scored 15 points.
Second-year players Nik Vucevic and Lavoy Allen were in uniform, occupying the last two seats on the bench. Allen cannot play until he signs his new two-year contract, which will happen as early as Wednesday when the free agency moratorium is lifted. Vucevic is available to play but did not on Monday because of a left Achilles tendon strain.
Assistants McKie and Brian James coached the club during the game. Sixers head coach Doug Collins watched the action from a baseline seat, while Sixers front office personnel Rod Thorn, Tony DiLeo and Courtney Witte had front row seats opposite the Sixers’ bench.
The games are not open to the public, but do take place under the watchful eyes of coaches and front office people from around the NBA. Of note in attendance was Larry Bird, who recently stepped down from his post as president with the Pacers. Former Sixers standout and head coach Maurice Cheeks was in the gym along with Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks. Both former Sixers were congratulated repeatedly for guiding the Thunder to the NBA Finals, where they lost in five games to the Miami Heat.