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Coaching Change Opens Door for a Possible Return for Montrezl Harrell

Will Montrezl Harrell be back in a Hornets uniform?

The Charlotte Hornets dramatically improved its inside scoring at this year's trading deadline by shipping off Ish Smith and Vernon Carey to the Washington Wizards in exchange for Montrezl Harrell. 

Throughout his seven-year NBA career, Harrell has been one of the better finishers at the rim but more importantly, he plays with 100% effort and energy 100% of the time. That's something the Hornets fan base quickly grew to love and by the end of his first home game inside Spectrum Center, he became a fan favorite. 

Like every other stop, Harrell was never thrown into the starting lineup. He has been very productive off of the bench and with Mason Plumlee having already been in the organization for the first half of the season, there was no need to change things up. However, the minutes that Harrell received down the stretch weren't to the level that he or even the fans thought he deserved. 

In the team's final game against the Miami Heat, head coach James Borrego elected to keep him on the bench the entire night, never inserting him into the game which came as a major surprise considering the team was fighting for playoff positioning.

"It was just a rotation that we went to tonight," Borrego said. "We played smaller against their group, so whether we stay with this rotation, I'll figure that out moving forward but that's where we went tonight. We can trim a little bit or we can add. I think the Gordon thing was a factor and that happened late today, so that threw us off a little bit but we have a few days figure that out."

Fast-forward to the play-in game versus the Hawks and once again, Harrell saw minimal action. Sixteen minutes to be exact. That is something that did not sit well with him, especially when Atlanta was pouring it on and no adjustments were being made. 

"When you're in one of those situations where you're coming in to a team that kind of has a set group of guys that they kind of roll with and are familiar with - it's kind of hard to differentiate a coach's opinion," Harrell said. "I've been in this league for seven years now. And everywhere I've been, I've done what I was asked to do and excelled in that role to an extreme amount. It just sucks to sit on that sideline and be in that veteran mode that I'm in and to watch us go out there and put on a performance like that, get embarrassed like that and we don't make any changes. That's kind of what doesn't sit well with my spirits. Atlanta was trying to embarrass us. That's what they were trying to do."

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Not only was Harrell none too pleased about the lack of minutes, but also the role he felt he was being locked into.

"It was definitely a different situation. I have never really been traded in-season, so this was a first experience for me. But it was a fun experience to be able to come back to my hometown state and to be able to play in this organization. I came in and basically just did whatever I did at any other place that I've been. This role was a little bit different and I don't know if I was able to really flourish in it just because of the time period when I came. I don't know if just me being in that leadership role is just a role that I can just stand in. I love being a part of this game. I love playing. I love being out there on the floor. It was definitely a tough situation for me to try and understand.

"I'm not old. I just turned 28 this year. I can still play this game with some of the best that do it. I just wanted that opportunity. I feel like I got it at some points and I feel like it kind of went away at some points. It happens. Like I said, you come into an organization and they're still trying to figure out the right fits to things but still also trying to win games. I just feel where I am in this league, like, I'm not one of those players that you really got to experiment with. I feel like you kind of know what you're going to get out of me."

During the entirety of his exit interview, there was a strong vibe coming from Harrell that he did not see eye to eye with Borrego, as you can probably attest to by reading these quotes. With Borrego being fired last month, this could open up the door for Harrell to return to the team for the 2022-23 season. Again, much of that will be dependent on the new hire and his scheme, but I think it's safe to say if Borrego was still in the building, Harrell probably would have turned down the opportunity to return.

"It's not really up for me to determine," Harrell said regarding free agency. "It's really my agency and for the guys behind the scenes to differentiate that. I would love to continue to be in Charlotte. This is my hometown state, I'm from here and to be able to feel the love just walking around the city in different aspects, it feels amazing."

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