The Los Angeles Lakers added key upgrades to the team while in pursuit of defending their championship, signing Montrezl Harrell, the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Yea after luring him away from crosstown rivals, the LA Clippers.
Harrell, 26, has the rare opportunity to change teams without having to move to a new city. The Lakers and Clippers even share the same building (for now).
“This is a business no matter what,” said Harrell. “If you’re not one of our top-tier players in the league, which we all know who those players are, everybody is expendable.”
Harrell signed a two-year mid-level extension worth $19 million. Trez will earn $9.25 million next season along with a player option worth $9.72 million in 2021-22. He could opt out and become a free agent next season.
In addition, the Lakers acquired Dennis Schroder in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Louisville > Houston > Hollywood
The Houston Rockets selected Harrell out of Louisville with the last pick in the second round of the 2015 NBA Draft. He struggled in his first two seasons in the league while coming off the bench for the Rockets. During his rookie season, he averaged just 3.6 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. In his sophomore campaign, he cracked the rotation and saw his minutes double along with his numbers, averaging 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
In the summer of 2017, the Rockets acquired Chris Paul from the Clippers in a blockbuster trade that included seven players and a first-round draft pick. The trade package included Patrick Beverly and Lou Williams.
Harrell flourished as a role player with the Clippers. Last season, he was a part of the second unit that also included Sixth Man of the Year, Lou Williams. Harrell averaged 16.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game.
During the pandemic-shortened season, Harrell secured Sixth Man of the Year honors. Trez averaged 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game off the bench.
Trouble in Clipperland
Harrell and Lou Williams were among the players who were unimpressed with the arrival of Kawhi Leonard, fresh off a championship run with the Toronto Raptors. They were not keen on Leonard’s “load management” in which he’d miss games throughout the season. Both role players also didn’t appreciate the prima donna status that Doc Rivers gave their new player, who often held up the team plane and was habitually late for practice and meetings.
The Clippers were co-favorites to win the championship all season. They imploded in the postseason inside the NBA Bubble in Orlando. The Clips blew a 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets and were knocked out of the Western Conference semifinals.
Things were so tense that Doc Rivers jumped ship and migrated east to become the new head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Trez wanted to stay with the Clips, but didn’t quite think the feeling was mutual.
“If you spend your career in any place long enough, you’re going to want to still keep playing there and keep growing there,” said Harrell. “I still have great respect for those guys and for that organization. As far as they wanted me back, obviously it doesn’t seem that way, does it?”
Harrell was thrilled to join the Lakers and will gladly assist LeBron James in his defense of the championship.
“It’s a business decision,” explained Trez. “It was the right decision for me. I talked to my family and, you know, it’s where we decided I wanted to go. Simple as that. Going to be with a team that wanted me. I’ll do anything I can to help the Lakers get back to that same place.”