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."

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

Bulls sign local product Tyler Ulis to two-way deal

The NBA preseason has finished and teams are finalizing their rosters before the beginning of the regular season.

For the Bulls, that meant claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers and signing him to a two-way contract.

The Athletic's Shams Charania first reported the move.

Ulis, a product of Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, was waived by the Warriors on Friday. He spent two years at Kentucky before getting drafted in the second round by the Phoenix Suns in 2016.

In two years with the Suns, Ulis made 58 starts and played in 132 games. He averaged just over 7 points per game in both seasons. Last season, Ulis also averaged 4.4 assists per game against 1.8 turnovers in 23.4 minutes per game.

The Suns waived Ulis after the season and the Warriors signed him for the preseason. He averaged 3 points and 1.5 assists per game in four preseason games with the Warriors.

The two-way contract means Ulis could be spending more time with the Windy City Bulls than at the United Center on game days, but backup point guard is a question mark for the Bulls. Cam Payne looks like he will get first crack at the role behind Kris Dunn with Denzel Valentine injured. Ryan Arcidiacono just made the team and could also figure into point guard minutes.

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Ryan Arcidiacono's persistence pays off with roster spot inclusion

Cuts during the NBA preseason aren’t exactly as gut-wrenching and tension-filled as they are in the NFL. NBA teams cut from somewhere in the late teens down to 15, and the potential for two-way contracts exist for those players who don’t make the roster. But for Ryan Arcidiacono, Saturday was filled with angst as he waited for a call. It never came.

“I was thinking about it. It’s like Hard Knocks when you’re watching. You don’t want to get that phone call,” Arcidiacono said Sunday before practice. “I was just thinking to myself after the game (Friday), nobody said anything to me. I was talking to (assistant) Pete (Myers) and he said, ‘Just get outta here, man. I’ll see you at practice on Sunday.’ I was still a little nervous on Friday night. Saturday morning I felt better after I talked to my agent and everything became more official.”

It’s quite the journey for Arcidiacono, who spent time both with the Bulls and their G-League affiliate in Hoffman Estates last season. In 37 starts with the Windy City Bulls, Arcidiacono averaged 13.9 points and 8.5 assists in 39.6 minutes. His two longest stints in Chicago came in late January and at the end of the year, and that 24-game audition was enough for the Bulls to re-sign him in July.

Arcidiacono found more comfort this summer in Year 2 with the Bulls. Though his playing time in the preseason was limited he showed enough in camp to warrant a spot on the roster. It also helped that the Bulls find themselves thin at the point guard position behind Kris Dunn, with Cameron Payne struggling and Denzel Valentine on the mend with an ankle injury.

“I think last year really helped me with the two-way, getting acclimated with what Fred wants to do,” he said. “I think getting up and down with the G League. (Head coach) Charlie (Henry) really helped me a lot. Knowing our point guard situation, I just tried to be the hardest playing guy on the floor anytime I step on and the rest will take care of itself.”

It’s unknown whether Arcidiacono’s stint in Chicago will last. His contract will be guaranteed on January 10. He’s an important body for now with Lauri Markkanen out for the foreseeable future and Valentine still recovering from his own injury. But he’ll also have the opportunity to push Payne for that back-up role. Payne struggled much of the preseason, averaging 4.2 points and 3.2 assists on just 25 percent shooting.

“Arci has done a lot of really good things,” Hoiberg said. “I liked the way he looked in the game the other night off the ball. Defensively, made some really good solid plays and again, when there’s an open man on the court Arci’s gonna find him.”

He won’t move the needle on the Bulls’ season, and his minutes will likely be minimal once the season begins. But for now it’s a great story of persistence that gives the Bulls another hard-working body in practice.”

“Whatever our team needs, that’s what they’ll get from me,” he said. “Whether that’s being a backup or the third point guard spot, I’m just here to compete and make our team better and hopefully get us some victories.”