With the appropriate emojis, Los Angeles Clippers guard Patrick Beverley captured the team’s frustrated sentiments over two developments. Not only did Montrezl Harrell leave the organization. He joined the Lakers, the NBA’s defending champions and the Clippers' cross-town rivals.
"They understand the business," Harrell said Monday in a conference call with reporters. "Honestly, I’ve learned the business from those guys."
After all, Beverley and Lou Williams often switch teams because organizations put them in trade deals. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George joined the Clippers last season in pursuit of an NBA title. But as much as Harrell made what he called "a business decision" by joining the Lakers, his departure also had more to do than with just joining forces with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
It also pointed to the Clippers’ interest, or lack thereof, in retaining Harrell.
"I still have great respect for those guys and for that organization," Harrell said. "But like I said, as far as if they wanted me back, obviously it doesn’t seem that way, does it?"
Harrell did not detail the level of conversations the Clippers had with him once free agency began Friday. But it became obvious the Lakers had strong interest in Harrell, who won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award after ranking second in bench scoring (18.6) while shooting 58% from the field with 7.1 rebounds.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Frank Vogel both talked with Harrell on the phone about their interest. Pelinka had said he wanted to upgrade the roster with a mix of young and veteran players that become "star role players" and play with grit. In Harrell’s case, he fulfilled that job description perfectly with the Clippers.
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"I’m definitely going to be with a team that wanted me and a group of guys that I felt that gravitate well to and that I’m going to build chemistry with fast," Harrell said. "I’m going to try get back to the same thing and the same feeling that they had this past year, which is another championship."
So why would the Clippers not want to have Harrell in hopes that they can win an NBA championship? After the Clippers squandered a 3-1 series lead to the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference semifinals, they remained open to making changes. After parting with coach Doc Rivers and replacing him with assistant Tyronn Lue, the Clippers then micro-analyzed their roster.
It did not help Harrell’s cause that he played inconsistently during the playoffs after missing time following the passing of his grandmother. But what Harrell normally offered with consistent scoring at the rim and hustle, he lacked in consistent defense and outside shooting. The Clippers acquired Serge Ibaka, believing that he can be a more dependable and versatile option than Harrell.
Montrezl Harrell averaged 15.2 points a game in three seasons with the Clippers. (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)
"I feel that if you spend your career at any place long enough, you want to continue to still be in there and keep growing there," said Harrell, who played for the Clippers the past three seasons.
Instead, Harrell found the Lakers as an interested partner.
"I’ve just always been in an underdog position and always having to work and overcome and do all of the things that don’t really show up in the stat sheet every single night to still be noticed," Harrell said. "I don’t know how it’s going to complement the Lakers. That’s not really a hard thing to do. You’re playing with two premier superstars in our league with LeBron and AD."
As much as Harrell’s life might become easier with James and Davis, the Lakers believe their star duo’s life becomes easier with Harrell’s presence for two reasons.
After lacking a definitive third option last season, the Lakers now view Harrell as that person. After relying heavily last season on James and Davis, the Lakers would like to reduce their workload to minimize injuries and burnout after winning an NBA title just over a month ago. The NBA begins training camps around Dec. 1 and the season on Dec. 22.
"As far as what I can do to take the load off of AD and Bron? I don’t really feel like that’s a 'me' thing," Harrell said. "That’s going to take our whole entire team. We have multiple pieces that we’ve added."
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