Montrezl Harrell missed his first game with the Los Angeles Lakers in the team’s recent loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night. But unlike has been the case for much of the team, it had nothing to do with injuries.
Instead, head coach Frank Vogel chose to give Marc Gasol the backup center minutes against a Mavericks team with a true center off the bench.
In the team’s ensuing game against the Orlando Magic, Harrell was back in the lineup and responded in a big way. He finished with 18 points, five rebounds and three steals as the Lakers defeated the Magic, 114-103, to end their three-game losing streak.
Vogel has maintained that he believes all three Lakers centers, including Andre Drummond, will play a role and be necessary for the team’s playoff run. This means that there may be times where Harrell finds himself on the outside looking in as Gasol had been before that contest. While that isn’t ideal for Harrell, he understands the position that he is in.
“I’m a competitor. I always want to be out there on the floor, especially like the last game we had,” Harrell said. “It’s just one of those things you just have to learn to deal with, but I’ve been in this position before. I came into this league and played behind two centers in Dwight [Howard] and Nene [Hilario] in Houston. I’ve been around veteran guys who have taught me how to take this game as a pro. I had great veterans throughout this league in Trevor Ariza and guys like Lou Will.
“It’s about being a pro. It’s about doing what the team needs and what the coach is asking you to do at that point in time. That’s all it is. I still continue to do my extra work off the court as I normally do because, at the end of the day, I’m a worker.”
Harrell brings a relentless energy to the Lakers whenever he is on the floor and on certain nights can provide a boost to the team that no one else can. His lack of size however, does provide some limitations particularly against true centers who can often overpower him. It is at those times where Gasol provides a better option, not to mention his passing and basketball IQ can often elevate teammates who need it which is often the case in the second unit.
Regardless of what this may mean for Harrell’s minutes, he made it clear that he will do whatever is asked of him.
“I’m Montrezl. I play Montrezl’s game and I do what Coach [Vogel] asks Montrezl to do for this team. I’m doing the same thing I’ve been doing all year. Playing as hard as I can. Doing all the little things I can for the team to win and coming to work every day.
“Like I said, if Coach [Vogel] needs me to sit a night or anything like that, I’ve done it as you can see, but that’s not up to me. I don’t have control of that. I’m just going to focus on things that I can control. I know I’m at my best when I do those things because if I sit here and start racking my brain on the things I can’t control or things I don’t know or what’s going to happen, I’m going to stress myself out and it’s not going to be good for nobody.”
In the playoffs last season, Vogel was masterful in changing his lineups and rotations to best match up with their opponent and he plans on doing the same thing this season. The Lakers have a lot of options for every different situation they may witness, but the Lakers head coach has always been open with his team and that has led to everyone buying in to the bigger picture.
In the case of Harrell, the case seems to remain the same.
Kuzma preaches necessary ‘sacrifice’ to win a championship
At every position the Lakers have players they can turn to who all bring something different to the table. Aside from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, there is arguably no player guaranteed to close out games and overall minutes can potentially fluctuate from game to game. But Kyle Kuzma remains focused on the big picture and understands that everyone must sacrifice for the ultimate goal.
“It’s all about sacrifice. That’s something I really learned about last year,” he said. “I think that’s something I struggled with last year. I was hard on myself and down a little bit, but I had great teammates that stuck with me and I figured it out.
“Now is not the time to be harping on yourself and if you don’t play you don’t play. Just cheer on your teammate. We’re trying to win championships right now.”
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