The Los Angeles Clippers have lost three games in a row, but are still firmly in contention for a playoff seed. Despite losing several key players to serious injuries, the Clippers have gotten significant production out of their reserve players. One of those players is Montrezl Harrell, whom the Clippers acquired in the deal that sent Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets last summer.
Basketball Insiders recently spoke to Harrell about how the Clippers have managed to remain competitive despite the injuries, his own play this season and how he and other Clipper reserves have managed to produce so consistently and effectively.
“I don’t try to do anything outside of my game. I don’t try to go out there and just make spectacular plays,” Harrell said when asked about filling in for DeAndre Jordan, whom was recently sidelined with an ankle injury.” But, I’ve just been coming in and doing the things that the team need me to do. Playing as hard as I can. Just giving us the best opportunity, the best position to win basketball games.”
Jordan returned to action on Wednesday after missing five games (which is the first time Jordan has been sidelined because of an injury in his 10-year NBA career). In past years, the Clippers didn’t have the depth to effectively manage devastating injuries and often turned to aging veterans to keep the team afloat. This season, with the acquisition of several talented reserves in free agency through the Paul trade, the Clippers have found strength in their depth. Additionally, Clippers’ head coach Doc Rivers has been forced to place his trust in young, developing players, which is something he has shied away from in recent seasons. Rivers is being rewarded with solid play from several of his younger players and is receiving credit from his players, including Harrell.
“Coach Rivers,” Harrell said when asked who is primarily responsible for the team’s resilient performance this season. “He’s a big guy on playing the right way and definitely following out the system and stuff like that. He’s a great coach, and he’s a great leader for us. And just by being under him, and the existence of the way that he coaches, the things that he wants us to do. He tells everybody on this team what their role is so after that, it’s just carrying out your job and knowing what you’re supposed to do.”
Harrell hasn’t put up huge statistics but he has been a solid contributor whenever his number has been called this season. Harrell credits Coach Rivers with keeping things simple and allowing him to play to his strengths.
“Be yourself,” Harrell told Basketball Insiders when asked about the best advice he has received from his coach. “Don’t go out there and try to overthink the game. Don’t go out there and try to do something that’s outside your game or something that’s not you. Just go out there and play your game and be yourself, simply like that. And I feel like if I can simplify the game like that, that can help me out tremendously. I don’t have to go out there overthinking things, thinking I need to do this, when all I need to do is carry out my job.
In today’s pace-and-space style of play, centers are often relegated to cleanup duty on both ends of the court. Only the most talented centers are featured prominently on offense, which can be difficult to deal with for some big men like Harrell. However, when asked about whether he is able to fully utilize his talents within the Clippers’ systems, Harrell showed little concern about his personal interests.
“Honestly, to be real with you, I don’t really pay any attention to that,” Harrell said. “I go game by game, day by day, practice by practice and take it one day at a time. I can’t start getting inside my own head planning for later on, down the road. I’m just living in the moment now, just taking advantage of the time I have and just keep getting better as a player. I play with a lot of offensive talented guys and they put me in a great position to score. And from there, I just use the tools that I’ve had, to work and craft my game, get better and just apply it to the court. That’s all.”
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