One of the biggest surprises in free agency was the decision of reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell to jump to the Lakers. Not that the move made no sense. In fact, there are no downsides to claiming a crucial spot on the rotation of the defending champions — and especially when doing so makes them even more favored to retain their collective status as the best of the best. Nonetheless, the development raised eyebrows, and not just because he’s fresh off a personally productive campaign with their intra-town rivals.
Not coincidentally, the Clippers were among those taken aback by the turn of events, with longtime teammate and friend Patrick Beverley exemplifying the shock by incredulously tweeting “what” in reaction. For Harrell, however, it was a matter of being wanted. His contributions and ensuing formal recognition from the National Basketball Association notwithstanding, he found his position untenable given lingering ill will following a less-than-stellar playoff stint. Speculation pointed to his rift with All-Star Kawhi Leonard, and while he made no mention of it in his virtual presser yesterday, he said enough to convey his sentiments.
For the record, Harrell was asked if the Clippers angled to retain him while he explored his options. The answer “goes without saying,” he noted. “Apparently not if I’m on the other side. So it is what it is, really.” And so he will be burning rubber for the Lakers in the foreseeable future, pledging to give his all every time out in furtherance of his “business decision… When I was playing for the Clippers, I gave it everything I had every night when I laced up my sneakers. And now that I’m here with the Los Angeles Lakers, that’s the same thing I’m going to do.”
No doubt, Harrell’s thought process was facilitated by his association with Klutch Sports, which counts among its clients Lakers top dogs LeBron James and Anthony Davis and vital cogs Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris. That said, he contended that the choice was his. “I talked to my family and, you know, it’s where we decided I wanted to go. Simple as that.” In any case, it’s clear that he has moved on, and that he figures to be a boon for the purple and gold — and, therefore, a bane for the Clippers — moving forward. “I’m just trying to do anything I can to help them get back” the top of the league. Enough said.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994. He is a consultant on strategic planning, operations and Human Resources management, corporate communications, and business development.