Orlando Magic guard Gary Harris could make his season debut in Friday’s road game vs. the Chicago Bulls at United Center.
Harris was upgraded to probable on the team’s Thursday injury report after being sidelined for the season’s start, missing the first 15 games because of left knee injury recovery.
The Magic enter Friday 4-11 after going 3-4 in their season-long, seven-game homestand that ended with a 126-108 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday at Amway Center.
Harris had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in late August after tearing cartilage, which also forced him to miss training camp.
He told the Orlando Sentinel last week he was “getting close” to returning to the floor but wasn’t sure when it could happen.
It looks like it’ll be Friday.
“I can’t really say one day or the other because some days are better than others right now, but it’s feeling good right now,” Harris told the Sentinel ahead of the Nov. 11 home win over the Phoenix Suns. “Just trying to keep it that way.”
Harris has had various minor injuries throughout his career but the meniscectomy was his first surgery, he said, providing unqiue challenges during rehabilitation.
“It’s just different,” Harris said. “Different movements. It’s something I have to get back comfortable and familiar with after my first one. Just seeing how my body responds.”
Starting big man Wendell Carter Jr., who sat in the loss to the Timberwolves because of a strained right plantar fascia (soft tissue under the foot), also is listed as probable for Friday against his former team (8 p.m., Bally Sports Florida/Bally Sports+/FM 96.9 The Game).
Rookie forward Paolo Banchero is listed as out because of the sprained left ankle from the home loss to the Houston Rockets on Nov. 7.
He told the Sentinel on Wednesday that his ankle had progressed but he was still experiencing soreness, adding that it was his first time injuring it.
His return will ultimately depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment, but he expects to be sidelined for at least another 1-1½ weeks.
After the matchup against the Bulls (6-9), the Magic will play the Pacers in Indianapolis on Saturday and Monday. Their first game after Thanksgiving will be against the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 25 at Amway Center.
None of Magic’s five players listed as out for Friday traveled with the team to Chicago.
Harris, who was on an expiring contract for 2021-22 that paid him $20.5 million, signed a 2-year, $26 million extension to return to Orlando before free agency officially started July 1.
He has a $13 million, fully-guaranteed salary for the 2022-23 season and a $13 million non-guaranteed salary for 2023-24. His 2023-24 salary becomes fully guaranteed after June 30, 2023.
Harris finished last season averaging 11.1 points on 43.4% shooting from the field and 38.4% shooting on 3s for a 53.9% effective field goal percentage — a formula that adjusts for 3-pointers being worth more than 2-pointers.
He’s coming off his healthiest season in a few years, appearing in 61 games, the most he’s played in a season since 2017-18. His eFG% was the highest it has been since then, too.
He’ll help the Magic as an off-ball scoring threat with his cutting and 3-point shooting, especially in catch-and-shoot and spot-up situations.
He made a team-high 41.3% (4 attempts per game) of his catch-and-shoot 3s in 2021-22 and has ranked as an above-average-to-great cutter in six of the previous seven seasons, according to statistics provided to the league’s official website by Synergy.
Orlando is the league’s most efficient scoring team on cuts, shooting 76.3% on the action, but only takes 5.3 field goal attempts off cuts — a bottom-10 mark entering Thursday’s games.
The Magic’s 33.6% 3-point accuracy and 34.8% catch-and-shoot 3-point accuracy were the league’s seventh-worst marks.
Harris should immediately help the Magic in these areas.