LOS ANGELES -- Long after his team went to the locker room after a disheartening loss the San Antonio Spurs a week ago, Los Angeles Lakers forward Montrezl Harrell stayed on the floor with teammate Quinn Cook to get some shots up.
Two days later before L.A.’s game win over the Chicago Bulls, Harrell was one of the first players on the floor working on his game.
In a blazing start the Lakers have shown no fall off from the team’s NBA title run a season ago, racing out to a league-best 9-3 record. Harrell has developed into a glue guy for this team. He’s doing all of the little things like rebounding, defending, scrambling for loose balls and overall providing a spark off the bench during lulls when LeBron James and Anthony Davis aren’t carrying this group.
After sweeping a three-game road trip, the Lakers return home to Staples Center, hosting the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday at 7 p.m. local time.
“Really, it’s easy to play with two great players like LeBron and AD (Davis),” Harrell said. “I just feed off those guys and try to do everything I can to put them in the best position to score and I just work off of what they already do great, really.”
Harrell is L.A.’s top scorer off the bench, averaging 13.6 points a contest. He’s also averaging 7.5 rebounds per game and playing about 25 minutes a night.
One of the things that has been somewhat of a surprise is Harrell’s ability to shoot from midrange, something Lakers head coach Frank Vogel has encouraged to keep defenses from sagging and protecting the basket.
“I think with all of our guys, we have to keep defenses honest,” Vogel said. “Whether that means them going under the pick-and-rolls on LeBron and him shooting over the top or when Trez (Harrell) has it in the post, if a player is just going to back up on him, it makes it harder to score at the rim. In some ways in everything we do, you have to take what the defense gives you. And he’s shown that ability to knock that shot down, so he has the green light to take it.”
The Lakers continue to do a good job of moving the basketball and finding the open man for good shots within the offense. The Lakers average 25.3 assists a contest, No. 13 in the NBA. However, L.A.’s also averaging 15.5 turnovers a contest, No. 23 in the league.
So, Vogel’s having to strike the balance of creating ball movement, versus looking for the perfect shot and turning it over when a good shot has already been created.
“We’re trying to play extra pass basketball, but also recognize the shot that comes from the rhythm of the offense, and making sure we’re not overpassing, which we do on occasion,” Vogel said. “But to me, that’s okay. I’d rather overpass than not pass enough. But we definitely want to have that identification piece of what’s the best shot from the rhythm of the offense.”
For his part, Harrell will continue to focus on the little things that lead to wins for his team.
“I’m not looking to come out here to prove anything,” he said. “I’m not looking to come out here to show people what my game consists of because I’m on a good team, and I know I’m going to come in here and do all of the little things I’ve been doing my entire career. That’s what has got me to the place I’m at now, and it’s just like I would do if I was anywhere else.
“I take this game every time I step on the floor as If it’s going to be my last time playing.”