Montrezl Harrell brings talent, high energy to the NBA


Montrezl Harrell brings talent, high energy to the NBA

It's not difficult to locate Montrezl Harrell.

It's not his chiseled 6-foot-7, 250-pound frame that makes him look more like an NFL tight end than Louisville power forward. It's not his unmistakable dreadlocks, either. Rather, the 21-year-old is easy to find as the one winning every 50-50 ball. He's the one fighting for offensive rebounds with multiple efforts. He's the one above the rim finishing an alley-oop with a dunk topped only in ferocity by his boisterous reaction.

The terms "high energy" and "never-ending motor" are usually reserved for fringe prospects who lack in talent and are hoping to find an NBA home based on their effort.

For Harrell, a first-round prospect, it's what he hopes he's ultimately defined as at the next level.

"You can come in and play with high energy and high passion every night (and) it will take you a long way," he said at last week's NBA Draft Combine. "And that’s just what I bring to the table every night. Every time I step on the court, no matter if it’s workouts, no matter if it’s games or practice, I go 110 percent every time because that’s just the way I play."

[MORE: NBA Draft Profile - Louisville F Montrezl Harrell]

Harrell also brought production to the Cardinals. In his junior season, a year after winning a national championship, he averaged 15.7 points on 56 percent shooting, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 35.1 minutes per game. He took over the leadership reins left behind by Russ Smith and helped the Cardinals to 27 wins - including 12 in the program's first year in the highly competitive ACC - and an Elite Eight appearance.

It was both another step in role and production for the talented forward. As a freshman he came off the bench behind the talented duo of Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan. As a sophomore he entered the starting lineup and played a critical role in the championship season, though he deferred to Smith as the de-facto team leader. But with Smith graduated as Behanan kicked off the team, 2015 was Harrell's chance to shine.

And playing in a conference that touted the eventual national champion in Duke as well as three other teams who finished the season ranked in the top-20, it was Harrell who led the way. He showed off an improved mid-range game in his final two seasons, was a monster on the offensive glass and, more importantly, set the tone for his teammates with his high-energy attitude.

"He brings high energy," said Louisville guard Terry Rozier. "You love that about him. There were a lot of games this year where you just felt down, but his high energy impacts the whole game and makes you play harder."

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It's why he'll hear his name called as early as the lottery on June 25 - Rotoworld's Ed Issacson currently has Harrell slated to go No. 19 to Washington. Though he may not tout the same upside as those younger players slotted in the mid teens like a Kevon Looney or a Myles Turner, his floor is considerably higher.

His undersized height - he's a bit of a tweener at 6-foot-8 who will need to play in the post - there's no substitute for his rebounding instincts and high energy. At worst he's a second unit spark plug; at best he becomes Kenneth Faried, a comparison he both respects and called "a great compliment."

The Bulls could entertain the idea of selecting Harrell if there isn't a player they feel best suits their immediate needs, notably point guard and center on the second unit. Gar Forman will look to replace Nazr Mohammed, while the near futures of both Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah leave some mystery. Though they have assumed foundations in Nikola Mirotic and Taj Gibson, adding a piece like Harrell to help with a team that struggled mightily on the defensive glass this past season would be beneficial.

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Whether it's the Bulls or another team looking to shore up its frontline, Harrell's message for NBA organizations is a simple one.

"They’re never going to have to worry about thinking I’m not coming to work every day, because I am," Harrell said. "I’m coming in from Day 1 to put not only myself in the best situation, but put our team in the best situation to be successful."

Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago


Robin Lopez taking demotion in stride, wants to return to Chicago

Only an errant punch that missed the face of Serge Ibaka prevented Robin Lopez from suiting up for the Bulls since arriving in the summer of 2016, but his availability streak will come to an abrupt end as the Bulls are sitting and Justin Holiday for the foreseeable future.

Lopez didn’t dress for the Bulls’ game against the 76ers, as he and Holiday were replaced by Cristiano Felicio and David Nwaba. Although he was jovial, cracking a few jokes when meeting with the media in pregame, it was clear he was disappointed.

“It was rough for me. I get it. I understand it,” Lopez said. “I always want to be out there playing on the court. That’s what I enjoy, especially playing with these guys. But I’m excited to watch these guys give it a go from the bench.”

With the Bulls being eighth in the lottery standings, Lopez understands the long-term objectives of the organization and said the conversation with the front office went as expected.

“I think pretty much what everybody else has heard,” Lopez said. “I was pulled aside. They told me they wanted to evaluate a few other guys, a few of the young guys. So I get it.”

Starting 138 of 139 games makes his streak ending a bit tougher to stomach, especially considering he didn’t find out about his certain inactivity until right before leaving for the United Center.

“I suppose that’s a little selfish of me, but a little bit,” said Lopez of sadness concerning the streak. “I looked in my closet today and thought I would have a glut of jackets. And I only found two. I didn’t realize this was an issue until about 5 minutes before I had to leave. So I got kind of a ragtag outfit for tonight but hopefully I’ll be better prepared in the games to come.”

Not only will he be armed with better wardrobe but he’ll be bringing a positive disposition to the sidelines that made him loved amongst his teammates.

“All my teammates, whether they’ve been playing with me or sitting on the bench and not dressing, they’ve all supported me,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I’d be too good a person if I didn’t do at least the bare minimum of the same.”

Lopez represented stability and veteran leadership in a tumultuous season, a solid performer when losing was the early norm and upheaval has been constant. It was a reason the Bulls hoped he would garner some interest in the trade market but after hitting for a draft pick in the Nikola Mirotic deal, they had no such luck with Lopez.

Naturally, he was asked about the prospect of being traded over sitting as a healthy scratch.

“That’s hard for me to talk about because I don’t know what situation I could have potentially been in once I had been traded,” Lopez said. “Yeah, it’s … I want to be playing obviously, but we’ve got a great group of guys right here.”

Considering how uncertain things will be for the future, it isn’t a guarantee Lopez won’t be around for the 2018-19 season.

“Yeah. It seems like they still like me. How could they not?,” he joked.

He’s due $14.3 million next season, the last of a four-year deal he signed with the Knicks in 2015. Averaging 12.3 points and shooting 53 percent from the field, he’s productive and valuable on the floor. He’s easy to dismiss with the hoopla surrounding the youth on the roster and the way things clicked when Mirotic stepped on the floor, but seven footers like Lopez aren’t easy to find—even as the game changes.

“I’m a team player. I like to think my play is tied to how the team plays,” Lopez said. “I think we had some really great stretches. The young guys really developed and found a rhythm once we all got healthy. I think we played pretty well.”

With 25 games remaining, he’s unsure of how long his inactivity will last but it’s hard to see him missing the remainder of the season. It would be a bad look for the Bulls and the league to have a healthy player miss two whole months, and Lopez claims no knowledge about that ugly “T” word.

“I’m not familiar with military artillery,” he said.

At least he’s keeping his sense of humor.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Will the Bulls complete 'the process'?

On today’s edition of STL Podcast, Luke Stuckmeyer is joined by Mark Schanowski, Nick Friedell and Vincent Goodwill to talk all things Bulls. Will the Bulls complete “The Process” as well as the visiting 76ers have so far? Our panel discusses the tank watch, recaps the epic Women’s Hockey Gold Medal game and much, much more.