Orlando Magic officials wanted to use the final weeks of the regular season to accelerate the development of youngsters such as Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris and DeQuan Jones. But this isn't how the team wanted it to happen. Arron Afflalo, the team's starting shooting guard and its leading scorer, will miss the final 12 games of the season after he strained his right hamstring during Friday night's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Although team officials wouldn't specify how severe the strain is, they said Afflalo's injury will be treated with rest and physical therapy. "He's a leader out there on the floor," Harkless said. "He brings a lot of energy, a lot of intensity. But we've played without him before. We've just got to do it again and stick together. We're all we got." Afflalo's absence will force the team's least experienced players into more prominent roles, most notably Harkless. The 19-year-old rookie already starts at small forward and typically defends opponents' top wing scorers. Harkless might play more minutes as a result of Afflalo's injury, and he will take on a more vital role in the team's offense because Afflalo averaged a team-high 14.1 shot attempts per game. Harkless played almost 45 minutes in Friday's loss to the Thunder, and he scored a career-high 25 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He added nine rebounds and tied a career high by blocking four shots. "He's not a kid, as you can see, that's afraid of anything," point guard Jameer Nelson said. Nelson might find himself taking more shots now. Coach Jacque Vaughn already had experimented playing Nelson alongside fellow point guard Beno Udrih, and Afflalo's injury probably will increase Nelson's and Udrih's playing time together. Nelson enjoys playing off the ball, anyway, and having two ball-handlers on the floor simultaneously adds a different dimension to Orlando's offense. Afflalo, 27, joined the Magic as part of last August's 12-player Dwight Howard trade. He embraced his role with the team, seeing it as an opportunity to expand his offensive game.
Afflalo's injury will thrust the Magic's youngsters into bigger roles
Orlando Sentinel | Mar 24