Montrezl Harrell: Lakers Need To Play With ‘More Emphasis’ On Defense
Montrezl Harrell, Los Angeles Lakers, Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Without LeBron James in the mix, on top of the missing players in Anthony Davis and Marc Gasol, the Los Angeles Lakers have to regroup and find a balance on both ends of the floor. After Sunday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, it seems defense is a priority to fix going forward.

The Suns entered the game ranking in the top five for field goal percentage (second), 3-point percentage (fifth) and free throw percentage (third). Though they underperformed from deep and from the charity stripe against L.A., the field goal percentage looked sharp and that manifested on the court.

Phoenix thrived when attacking the basket, as they drew fouls or converted on layups. Despite the 9-of-32 clip from deep, they had numerous open shots they couldn’t hit, so more points could’ve been tallied to their total.

The Suns’ showing has left the Lakers heading back to the drawing board on defense, and big man Montrezl Harrell
explained what the biggest lesson was after the loss without James.

“We got to guard better,” Harrell said. “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.”

Harrell added how allowing nine offensive rebounds — the Suns rank 28th in the league in that category with 8.2 — played an imperative factor in how the Lakers allowed more points.

“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.”

Despite the defensive concerns, Harrell has performed admirably in the last two games, averaging 23 points on 76.9% shooting with 10 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. He explained how he’s been able to produce in the manner he has recently.

“To be honest with you, I’m just taking what the defense gives me,” Harrell said. “I’m not trying to force anything. I’m not trying to go out there and prove something. … I’m just playing the game and taking what the defense gives me.”

Harrell also credited his team for getting him involved and simplifying the game.

“My teammates do a great job of finding me and passing me the ball, so I just try to make shots for these guys,” Harrell said. “That’s real big around here. … I really just try to take pride in every time they throw the ball to me I catch it and I finish it.”

Lakers willing to entertain Hornets’ offers for Harrell

As the March 25 trade deadline looms, rumors are picking up in frequency as teams determine whether their current rosters are adequate or if more help is obligatory.

The Lakers have been linked with big men for several months now, but one rumor has them potentially departing with a big man themselves.

The Charlotte Hornets are rumored to have interest in Harrell’s services as they hope to boost their frontcourt depth, and the Lakers appear to be willing to entertain offers.

What the Lakers would want in return is ambiguous to this point, but it’ll be interesting to see if L.A. decides to move on from Harrell for an intriguing offer. The last few games may dictate how crucial Harrell is to the Lakers, especially in the absence of multiple key players, so how this rumor materializes is one to watch.

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