NEW YORK — Moe Harkless returned to New York as an NBA player this week and it wasn’t the triumphant return for which he had hoped.
The former St. John’s star went 0-2 in games against the Nets and the Knicks, including Wednesday’s 113-97 loss to the Knicks at Madison Square Garden in which Harkless went 1-of-5 for six points and three rebounds in 36 minutes.
“It was exciting,” the Queens native told SNY.tv following the game. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the win but it was a good experience. I can’t wait to come back.”
The 6-foot-9 Harkless is averaging 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds as a rookie with the Magic, and said he’s still adjusting to the NBA.
“It’s tough,” he said. “You never know. I mean, [against the Knicks] I kind of had an idea that I would play a lot once I found out that [leading scorer] Arron [Afflalo] wasn’t playing. I don’t think I played pretty well [against the Knicks], but I’m just glad there’s another game on Friday [against the Celtics]. That’s the best and the worst part about the NBA.”
Magic coach Jacque Vaughn understands Harkless is a rookie with growing pains ahead, but believes he has a high ceiling.
“He’s been improving and that’s the best thing for him at this stage of his career, is he’s learning the league, he’s learning what it is to be a professional and to do it consistently,” Vaughn said. “And he’s improved as an individual and he’s going to get better.”
He added: “I think he’s a special talent and I think he’ll be able to help us on both ends of the floor. With the speed and quickness of today’s game, his length and athleticism will be beneficial for us going forward.”
While 26 of 60 2012 NBA Draft picks have been assigned to the NBA D-League at one time or another, Harkless has escaped that fate.
“I think that just shows how coach is willing to work with the young guys,” he said. “That’s a compliment to him. He hasn’t sent any of us; he wants to keep a close eye on us. Keep working with us, helping us develop, so it’s a credit to him.”
During his time in New York, Harkless visited his old St. John’s teammates Tuesday and made an appearance at their media day.
“I had a lot of fun with those guys,” he said. “I miss those guys so it was good to see them.”
While the Magic (14-31) have lost seven straight, the Johnnies (14-7, 6-3 Big East) have won five in a row entering Saturday’s tilt at Georgetown, and are in sole possession of third place in the Big East.
“I think they can be real good, man,” Harkless said. “They get better every time I watch them play, so you never know.”
Harkless confesses he thinks about what it would be like if he had stayed on campus to play alongside D’Angelo Harrison, JaKarr Sampson, Chris Obekpa and company. It’s not hard to imagine a Harkless-led St. John’s club making a run in March.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “But I’m happy with where I am and those guys are happy for me and I’m cheering them on every game.”