Al Harrington returns to the floor as the Magic's backup center

Al Harrington - USA TODAY Sports

Since making his season début on Tuesday, Harrington has played a bigger role than some folks might have expected him to.

The Orlando Magic's decision to deal reserve big men Gustavo Ayon and Josh McRoberts at the NBA trading deadline left the team with only Kyle O'Quinn to play backup center, and the rookie from Norfolk State saw his minutes and role grow as a result. But since Al Harrington made his Magic début on Tuesday--the New Jersey native had missed the entire season to recover from a staph infection in his right knee--O'Quinn has once again found himself at or near the end of coach Jacque Vaughn's bench.

In the four games since Harrington's return, O'Quinn has played twice, logging a total of 26 minutes. Harrington, in contrast, has played every game and is averaging 13.8 minutes, primarily playing O'Quinn's position of center.

Following Sunday's blowout loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, wherein O'Quinn only played in the fourth quarter, Vaughn explained what he likes about Harrington.

"In that fourth quarter, he got a hustle play, a putback play, [and] it's a great lesson for the young guys that were in the game with him at that time: he knows you can't take this game for granted. He was out there using his minutes and playing extremely hard."

On the hustle play that Vaughn mentioned, Harrington stole an inbounds pass intended for Grizzlies forward Jon Leuer, and then put up a layup. The shot missed, but Harrington followed it in for two points.

Vaughn also said that he's hoping to improve Harrington's conditioning, which is one reason why he's playing more than what one might expect him to on a rebuilding team, especially one which has a 22-year-old rookie at Harrington's position.

Harrington is averaging 5.5 points and three rebounds, shooting 33.3 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from three-point range. O'Quinn had made a season-best 13 straight appearances before recording a Did Not Play-Coach's Decision on Tuesday, the night of Harrington's return. He's averaging 3.3 points and 2.6 boards in 8.2 minutes overall. Since January 1st, his averages have improved to 4.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 10.2 minutes.

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