When Andre Drummond signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in March, the overwhelming expectation was that Marc Gasol would lose his spot in the rotation, and for the most part, that’s been true. In the last 10 games, Gasol has had four DNP-CDs.
However, when the Lakers played the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday, it was Montrezl Harrell that was a healthy scratch. Prior to that game, Harrell had appeared in every game for Los Angeles this season. Vogel explained his decision to sit Harrell after their loss on Saturday.
“We’re keeping all three centers sharp,” Vogel said then. “We’ve got two back-to-back situations with Dallas and giving each guy a look, seeing how those guys look in this matchup. But like I’ve said, we believe in all three centers and we need to keep all three centers sharp, that’s all.”
Fortunately for Harrell, his demotion to a reserve role didn’t last long, as he was active when the Lakers played the Orlando Magic on Monday — and when I say active, I mean really, really active.
In 22 minutes against the Magic on Monday, Harrell tallied 18 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals. He gave the team energy when they needed it. They likely wouldn’t have won the game without him.
After the game, Harrell addressed his DNP-CD on Saturday, and while he admitted he was disappointed he didn’t play, he didn’t question Vogel’s decision making.
“I’m a competitor, I want to be out there on the floor,” Harrell said on Monday. “It’s just one of those things you have to learn to deal with, man, but I’ve been in this position before. I came in this league and played behind two centers in Dwight and Nene in Houston, and I’ve been around veteran guys who taught me how to take this game as a pro. I’ve had great veterans throughout this league in guys like Trevor Ariza and Lou Will.
“It’s about being a pro, man. It’s about doing what the team needs and what the coach is asking you to do at that point in time. That’s all it is. I still continue to do all my extra work off the court that I normally do because at the end of the day I’m a worker. That’s how I’ve been able to get in this game and stay in it. I’m just going to keep doing all the little things, and keep going out there and giving my all to it.”
That attitude is what allowed the Lakers’ center rotation to be so successful last season, especially when the playoffs started, but Harrell made it clear that he has no interest in those comparisons — he just wants to focus on himself and how he can help the team.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know what they did last year, how their rotations went,” Harrell said. “But all those guys you just named, I’m none of them. I’m Montrezl, I play Montrezl’s game and I do what coach asks Montrezl to do towards the team. Like I said, it’s the same thing I’ve been doing all year. Playing as hard as I can, doing all the little things I can for the team to win and just coming to work every day.
“Like I said, if coach needs me to sit a night or anything like that man, I’ve done it. But as you can see, that’s not up to me. I don’t have no control of that. I’m just gonna focus on the things that I can control, and I know that I’m at my best when I do those things because if I sit here and start wracking my brain on the things I can’t control or the things I don’t know what’s going to happen, then I’m going to stress myself out.”
It’s possible that Harrell will find himself watching the game from the bench again this season, but he really doesn’t have a reason to believe that his spot in the rotation is in danger outside of Saturday’s game. Even in the midst of his recent struggles, Harrell is the team’s fourth-leading scorer, fourth-leading rebounder and leader in field goal percentage.
Harrell’s also a completely different player than Gasol and Drummond, which he believes is a strength of the team’s deep center rotation.
“It’s a complete diverse group of guys that do a little different things from each other in every aspect,” Harrell said. “Dre is a dominant force down low on the defensive end and offensively in the middle for us. AD is more of a guy who can do both, handle the ball and the way he shoots it from mid-range and the perimeter. Marc is a guy who can extend it out to the 3-point line in pick-and-pop situations but also roll and play the middle for us, and me, I just try to do all the little things.
“When guys find me on rolls and just around the basket I just try to do my job of finishing for them and converting. Same thing with Keef, I feel like he’s one of those guys in that AD-type role that rolls, posts up, playing that short range area,” Harrell continued. “It’s a complete, diverse group of guys that gives you a lot of things differently when it comes to getting on the floor.”
The Lakers’ center rotation will likely change once again when LeBron James returns from injury and again when the postseason starts in less than a month, but Harrell isn’t worried about how that will affect his play — he knows what he can bring to the team on a night-to-night basis.
“I play with a lot of energy and a lot of passion because every day I get to wake up and put my shoes on and be blessed to play the game of basketball to take care of my family,” Harrell said. “So I’m going to play with the same energy and passion every game that I’m out there and leave it all on the floor.”