The Clippers have taken a very practical approach to the seeding games, easing everyone along in the build-up to the postseason. The team has been very cautious regarding injuries as it utilizes the full depth of its roster.
But when Montrezl Harrell comes back, the Clippers plan on throwing him directly into the fire. With all due respect to the rest of the Clippers roster, Harrell requires no load management. Harrell only has one speed, and when he gets back onto the court, there will be no allowances made for his time away.
“Trezz is possibly the sixth man of the year award winner,” Doc Rivers said before practice Tuesday. “When Trezz gets back, we’re throwing Trezz right back out there.”
Harrell has constantly said that basketball is a year-round sport for him. He takes a couple weeks off once the season ends, but then is back in the gym working on his individual craft. He plays in summer basketball leagues as much as he can, often flying from Atlanta to L.A. to play in both cities on the same weekend. Even with the pandemic limiting Harrell’s ability to play 5-on-5, rust does not appear to be an overwhelming concern for the Clipper big.
The last time Harrell had a long rest, he came into the start of the 2019-29 season averaging 18.4 points over the first five games on 72.5% shooting. The man does not need time to get warmed up.
This is a slightly different situation because Harrell is dealing with personal heartbreak after the loss of his grandmother, the woman who he says essentially raised him. His bench partner Lou Williams believes that basketball can be therapeutic for Harrell at this time, however, and that it may give him a chance to work through some of his feelings.
“When we get an opportunity to step inside the lines, that is an opportunity to let our minds go, let our hearts be free, kind of let go of some of that grief, let go some of some of that hurt and bond with the guys,” Williams said. “I think that can be a positive thing for us once we play basketball.”
“He’s back ready to work,” Williams added about Harrell. “Obviously, Trezz is a high-energy guy. He’s a guy that plays at a high level, extremely physical player, extremely emotional player. With some things on his mind, I feel sorry for the other guys on the other team.”
Harrell’s impact has been felt on team even since he’s been away. Williams said they’ve been in constant communication, just like when he and Patrick Beverley were outside of the bubble for their own personal matters. Terance Mann even said that he uses Harrell as a model for the spark he needs to bring when he comes into games off the bench.
“We follow the leadership of Lou Williams and Trezz,” Mann said Tuesday. “Those guys kind of taught us almost how to play when you come off the bench, what type of energy you need to bring, what type of focus you need to have. We feed off that.”
The Clippers still aren’t at full health — Landry Shamet was recently added to the injury report, joining Beverley — but getting Harrell back in the rotation will still get them one step closer to normal. He is part of the heart of this team, and his presence has been missed. The Clippers are ready to have him back, and all indications are that Harrell is ready to go.