The midseason addition of Montrezl Harrell not only reinforced the Hornets’ frontcourt depth, but also gave the team a rare blend of energy, toughness and grit at the center position.
Acquired from Washington on Feb. 10 in exchange for Ish Smith and Vernon Carey Jr., Harrell appeared in 25 games for the Hornets and posted averages of 11.4 points on 64.5% shooting, 4.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists. On the year, he put up 13.1 points on 64.5% shooting – third in the NBA – 6.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists across 71 games and three starts, leading to a ninth-place finish in Sixth Man of the Year voting.
“It’s a blessing to be here doing this and calling it my job,” said Harrell during exit interviews. “I had never really been traded in-season, so this was a different experience for me. It was fun being able to come back to my home state, be able to play for this organization and leave it all out on the floor. I came in and basically did exactly what I did at any other place that I’ve been and did what they asked me.”
Harrell’s passionate, aggressive playstyle immediately injected energy into the Hornets’ rotation and fired up the home crowd on countless occasions. A fantastic finisher and offensive rebounder in particular, Harrell averaged 18.2 points on 67% shooting and 8.2 rebounds across his first five games in the purple and teal before his minutes and production started to yo-yo a bit throughout March and April. Carving out a niche on a new team is a challenge in itself – especially on the fly – which led to some understandable frustrations from the big man.
“This role was a little bit different,” the now seven-year veteran explained. “I don’t really know if I was able to flourish just because of the time period. It’s one of those situations where you’re coming into where they have a set group of guys to roll with. I love being part of this game. I love playing. I love being out there on the floor, so it was definitely a tough situation for me. Wherever I am, I’m just going to do what the team needs me to do.”
The Tarboro, NC native is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and despite some challenging circumstances, remains open to returning to the Hornets. “I would love to still be in Charlotte,” Harrell said. “This is my hometown state. To be able to feel the love when I walk around the city, it feels amazing. I’ve been in a couple places where I’ve felt the love from the organizations and they went in an opposite direction. I’m a veteran and understand [how things work]. I would love to still be a part of this organization for the following years to come.”
Regardless of how free agency plays out, whatever team Montrezl Harrell winds up joining will be getting an experienced plug-and-play veteran, who’s willing to do the dirty work and leave everything he has out on the hardwood.
“Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve done what I’ve been asked to do and exceled in that role to an extreme amount,” he said. “I wear my heart on my sleeve. I play with a lot of passion and aggression because that’s how I am about this game. I just turned 28 this year and still play this game with some of the best that do it. I just want that opportunity. I feel like with where I am in this league, I’m not one of those players you have to experiment with. Everybody in this league knows what they’re going to get out of me once I step on the floor.”