The Lakers were a tight-knit group last season,. That chemistry was a big part of the reason they were able outlast every other team in the NBA despite all of the adversity they faced, from their controversial trip to China to the tragic death of Kobe Bryant.
This season, they’ll try and build that chemistry back up with a new group of players, which includes Montrezl Harrell. Harrell, the 2019-20 Sixth Man of the Year, played for the LA Clippers last season; a talented team that struggled to get on the same page because of a lack of leadership on the bench and in the locker room.
Now with the Lakers, Harrell will share a locker room with LeBron James, who’s widely regarded as one of the greatest leaders the NBA has ever seen. Harrell and James only took the court together as teammates for the first time on Sunday, but James’ ability to command a team has apparently stood out to Harrell already.
“I definitely think his leadership is a tremendous skill to have and I definitely think he’s built it up due to an unbelievable amount of work, and being a student of the game and everything that he’s put forth into this game,” Harrell said after practice on Sunday. “It definitely shows because he’s a guy in his 18th-19th season being in the NBA, man, and he’s still just getting better. He’s getting better every day, and it shows from his talking to guys, putting guys into the right places, letting us know what coach wants and where he wants us working on.
“So, I think we have a strong great leader on in LeBron — not only him: AD, Marc, a guy who’s been around the league as well. I just think we have great leadership overall.”
But as impressed as Harrell is with the Lakers’ leadership, he knows from experience that championship-level chemistry isn’t built overnight, and that it takes more than just three guys to build it. That’s also why he isn’t ready to compare his situation with the Clippers to his new situation.
“It’s two different teams you’re asking about,” Harrell said. “You know, this is where I am and this chemistry that we’re trying to build is going to take a while to build because we haven’t all been on the floor at the same time together, we’re still learning each other. We’re still getting a feel for how each one of us plays and the little things that we want done.
“There are a couple guys who’ve been here who had the honor of playing together and actually winning the championship last year, but to a certain extent, we almost have a whole new five on the team — more, really — and it’s just going to take some time in general, man. I think with any given chemistry, or reset to a roster, or rebuild to a roster, it’s gonna take time to gel and kind of understand the ins and outs of just each other as teammates and players.”
The Lakers will work on rebuilding their chemistry throughout training camp, but it will be a season-long process, and the circumstances in which they’ll play under this season may make it harder for them to build relationships off of the court. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but it’s also not unreasonable to assume this year’s team won’t gel as fast as last year’s, especially when you consider the fact that James didn’t get to host one of his famous players-only mini camps.
The process is undoubtedly going to be different — let’s hope the end result is the same.