One of the most emotional plays of the Orlando Magic's season produced an emotional response from Tobias Harris.
It occurred Sunday night. The Boston Celtics, trailing by two points with 10.1 seconds left to play, inbounded the ball to Rajon Rondo, who then passed the ball to Jeff Green on the right wing. But Harris fought through a screen, sprinted out to Green and prevented a potential game-winning 3-pointer. The Celtics blundered the remainder of their possession and didn't take a shot before the final buzzer sounded.
Harris yelled joyfully as his friend, teammate Kyle O'Quinn, ran onto the court to celebrate. Seconds later, Magic players huddled at the free-throw line, and Harris shouted encouragement.
But that response was emblematic of Harris' approach lately. Although he seems soft-spoken off the court, the 21-year-old forward has been more vocal and more emotional during recent games.
"I just think for me being a player that I am, being the person that I am, it's just something that I have to do," Harris said.
"I have to be vocal for our team. I look at myself as a guy on this team who's going to go out and play as hard as anybody on the court. With that being said, I want to be vocal and be energetic towards my team and make sure they're bringing the same amount of energy."
The uptick in Harris' outward passion stems largely from the Magic's recent struggles. The team had lost 10 consecutive games going into its matchup against Boston and now has lost 12 of its last 13 games, and Harris and some of his teammates have attempted to make extra efforts to boost the team's collective spirit.
But it also stems partly from a conversation Harris and coach Jacque Vaughn had following the Magic's listless loss to the Denver Nuggets on Jan. 13.
Vaughn took Harris aside and told Harris that he needed to play with more of an edge
"He knows that I'm the type of guy who wants to win as bad as anybody," Harris said.
"So, I'm going to give that effort. For me, it's anything I can do to help my team. In certain parts of the game, we get up or we get down. Our body language can fluctuate. That's human nature. But I want to maintain [a good spirit], and it starts with myself, being able to be consistent in how I approach the game and how I approach my teammates, too."
During a recent loss to Brooklyn, Harris attempted to psyche up his teammates by shouting, "Let's go! Let's go! Let's go!" after the Magic made a basket.
"I think overall with Tobias' nature, he's a very vocal individual," Vaughn said. "What I do think you see is at different points of the game he's trying to encourage his teammates. He's trying to lift them up, whether we're winning or losing. I think that shows a lot about his character and who he is."
Harris predicates his game on energy. At 6 feet 9 and 235, he can be overpowered by bigger opponents, but he typically outruns them up and down the court.
Now, that energy is spilling over a bit more with the way he interacts with teammates on the court.
Maurice Harkless, one of his friends, agrees that Harris has been more vocal lately.
On Wednesday night, Harkless, Harris, Doron Lamb, Victor Oladipo and Kyle O'Quinn helped the team recover from a 19-point deficit late in the third quarter and nearly beat the Atlanta Hawks.
Harris was one of the louder players during that stretch.
"He's been trying to do a better job of just being vocal every night," Harkless said.
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