Reigning 2020 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell signed a two-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2020-21 offseason, and so far, he’s been as good as advertised.
Last year, Harrell supplied the L.A. Clippers with someone who could single-handedly dominate opposing benches with his energy down low, paired with a scoring touch not replicated by many big men around the league. Despite earning the best accolade a reserve can achieve, he faltered in the playoffs, especially defensively.
After signing with the Lakers, Harrell received a similar role: come off the bench to score and bestow a spark. Even in the absence of Anthony Davis, Harrell remained in his bench role, but with health and safety protocols removing Marc Gasol from the rotation, Los Angeles elevated Harrell into the starting lineup for the first time this season against the Phoenix Suns Tuesday.
Harrell’s not reputed as a solid defender, and that was evident against Phoenix, as he struggled to contain the interior against Deandre Ayton. However, Harrell returned to the bench against the Sacramento Kings and flourished with 26 points and 12 rebounds in 33 minutes.
The 27-year-old big man cited the comfortability in his usual role as being the key to his success.
“Honestly, I feel better coming off the bench,” Harrell said. “I get to see the flow of the game, I get to see how certain things are being called, honestly. So I just felt more comfortable coming off the bench so I could actually get a feel for the game, I don’t want to just go in there and put myself in early foul trouble and have us down a man more than we already are.”
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel added that he has discussions with Harrell about his role which helps him figure out his starting lineups.
“He and I have talked about this in the past,” Vogel said. “I know that is his preference. Without knowing if Damian [Jones] was going to be able to play yesterday, we really didn’t have a choice but to ask him to start. He was on board with it yesterday. Tonight it’s a different game. I said, ‘How you feeling about tonight? We’re going to have D.J, how you feeling about tonight?’ He said he preferred to come off the bench and playing his normal role.
“He likes to feel the game out a little bit before he gets in there. That’s his preference and certainly we support that, so it’s just a simple conversation.”
Harrell calls out referee for soft technical foul
During the Lakers 123-120 loss to the Kings, referees called a technical foul on Harrell after the big man yelled “And-1” after converting a tough basket down low.
Harrell voiced his frustrations over the foul and called out the softness of it.
“[We] cannot be calling the game that soft,” Harrell said. “If I’m gonna get a tech for saying ‘And-1’ then they might as well just kick me out for the whole year because I’ve said way worse than that and haven’t been given a tech.
“So it is what it is, I can’t control that, I’m gonna keep playing with the same passion that I do. I didn’t stop talking throughout the rest of the game, I kept playing with the same fire and same mode that I had all game so it is what it is.”
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