Because of the restrictions set in place due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, teams have been strict about who can enter games. The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the teams that haven’t allowed fans back in just yet, and that includes controlling owner Jeanie Buss, who hasn’t attended a Laker game all season, until Montrezl Harrell provided a reason to do so.
During the seeding games in Orlando last season, Harrell, who played for the L.A. Clippers at the time, departed the bubble because he received the devastating news that his grandmother was ill, and shortly after, passed away. Harrell eventually returned to the court during the first round of the playoffs, but the impact of the news still lingered.
In early March, Harrell was still dealing with the effects of his grandmother’s passing, as evident through his tweets. The tweets caught the attention of prominent front office members like Buss and Rob Pelinka, the vice president of basketball operations.
That ushered Buss to do something she hadn’t done all season: attend a Lakers game. Before the game against the Indiana Pacers after the All-Star break, Buss hugged Harrell during pre-game warm-ups and explained why she did so, according to Bill Oram of The Athletic:
“I wasn’t doing it for any other reason than to have that moment with him to let him know he was important to me,” Buss said. “I think the story really should be about all the heart and energy that he’s brought to our team. He’s just been so terrific and I appreciate him so much.”
Buss explained how Harrell voicing his desire to don the Purple and Gold during the offseason meant a significant amount to her because of the drought Los Angeles had suffered in attracting quality players:
“I lived through that time period where people were like, ‘Nobody wants to come to the Lakers, they’re a ‘poo-poo show’ that nobody wants to go to anymore,’” Buss said. “And Montrezl was like, ‘I want to be a Laker,’ and that just meant so much to me. I have a really soft spot for him in my heart and he’s exceeded my expectations of what he’s been able to do as a Laker.
“I’m just glad he’s here.”
For Harrell, he’s not someone that actively seeks to talk to other people as a method of expressing himself. However, Harrell explained how he appreciated Buss’ actions even though she didn’t have to do anything:
“I don’t really like talking to people about what I’m going through,” he said. “So, what I say is just getting it off my chest. I’m not really looking for a handout, I’m not looking for nobody to comfort me. Whatever I say is just to get it off my chest and keep on going throughout my day. That’s how I deal with things. For her to see that and actually reach out meant a lot.”
Harrell has been a big part of the Lakers success this season despite having to adjust to being in a new organization. Having ownership like the Buss family behind you has to be a reassuring feeling, especially when you are also dealing with personal issues surrounding your family.
Harrell wants Lakers to play with ‘more emphasis’ on defense
The Lakers are currently in an insecure position, as injuries to vital players in LeBron James and Anthony Davis have hindered the team’s potential to be consistent.
Defense has been an area where the Lakers have shined throughout the season, but recently, they haven’t been playing up to their standard. Harrell detailed how the unit needs to clean up the issues and improve on defense.
“We got to guard better,” Harrell said after the loss to the Phoenix Suns. “I definitely think that’s one of the big things that we can take away from this. This game definitely in the first half they were shooting above 50 percent not only from three but from the field in general.
“I think we just got to put a little bit more emphasis on the defensive end of the floor,” Harrell said. “We definitely got to limit them to one shot. There were definitely a couple long rebounds and a couple of offensive rebounds definitely shifted in their favor. There’s a lot of room to improve on both ends.”
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