For the first 50 games of the Los Angeles Lakers season, Montrezl Harrell was one of the most important players on the roster. He was averaging 25.2 minutes per game and was beloved by fans and teammates alike for his passion and impact on the game. Despite some flaws on the court, he always played harder than everyone else, a testament to his work ethic.
However, things have changed for Harrell in the past month. From games 51-68, his minutes are down from 25.2 to 17.0. His statistics are down across the board and, despite playing in every single game for the first 50 games, he’s received two DNP’s from head coach Frank Vogel.
Even though his role has changed, Harrell still sees every game as an opportunity to lock in and get away from the outside world. “Honestly, I just come out here and play the game. I’m dealing with a lot off the court and day-to-day struggles with life. Just different things I’m going through.
“So this is the only time that I have a two-and-a-half-hour window where I come and just lock into my job and everything in the outside world doesn’t matter. I get to come and do something that I love. Just get away from it all.”
The Lakers center loves that he has basketball as his method of distraction. “It has. I’ve been blessed to be able to take the game of basketball and call it my job. I was blessed that my grandmother was the one that actually got me into the game and it’s tough with this being Mother’s Day and she’s not here. The first one I’m going through without her being here. I’m just dealing with other different various family things off the court.
“Other players deal with it and it led to life struggles. Me, it’s just different from the next person. Like I said, I get this two-and-a-half-hour window to just lock in and get away from it all. Then I go back and handle what needs to be handled.”
Harrell then dove in specifically on his place in the rotation, which has changed significantly since Andre Drummond has come in.
“I don’t know about other players, but me myself I don’t have any control over that. I go in every night with the mindset and I’m going to go out there and do everything I can to help will my team to a win.
“As far as the rotation and stuff like that, that’s up to Coach [Frank Vogel] and what he sees fits best. That’s what I try to honor and go with. Like I said, every night I feel like I can always be out there to help the team, but on some nights Coach don’t see a fit for me to be whether it’s rotations or matchups. That’s not on me, but I’m definitely going to stay ready.”
This is not the first time this season that Harrell has mentioned difficulties in his personal life. However, he’s chosen to keep that mostly private and focus on the game that has brought him plenty of opportunities.
As for his spot in the rotation, Vogel has said on many occasions that Harrell will be needed come playoff time. It’s more likely that his need will be more matchup-based than anything else, but that’s simply how things go when a team is as deep as the Lakers are.
Vogel explains playing Gasol over Harrell in recent loss
In the Lakers’ pivotal loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, Marc Gasol played all of the backup center minutes while Harrell did not play at all. He explained the decision following the game.
“With Marc, it’s just Dame Lillard and two really big centers and I just wanted to use Marc’s defense,” Vogel said after the Lakers’ five-point loss to the Blazers.
“Also without a primary playmaker offensively, there’s two ways to go, you can play through Trezz a lot rolling to the basket, but Marc sort of energizes the whole group with his passing. So it’s impossible decision to find the right choice here but we decided to go with Marc and he played great.”
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