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Harrell says Lakers didn’t play to his strengths, looking for bounce back year with Wizards

Kurt Helin and Corey Robinson discuss the NBA offseason, including Kyle Lowry's move to the Miami Heat and Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook signing with the Los Angeles Lakers.

It seemed like a coup when it happened — the Lakers poached the reigning Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell from the Clippers last offseason.

However, Harrell never found his footing with the Lakers. He played five fewer minutes a game, saw his scoring (13.5 points per game) and rebounding (6.2) numbers drop — although his true shooting percentage and other efficiency numbers stayed the same — and by the playoffs he was on the court less than 10 minutes a game.

Harrell was traded to Washington in the Russell Westbrook deal this offseason and is trying to get back to playing his game with the Wizards, he told Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington.

“Honestly, man, I’m trying to just get back to playing basketball freely and just get back to enjoying the game and just being able to help my team on both ends of the floor. I didn’t really get to be utilized how I wanted to be last year. I damn near felt like I had a season off. So, I’m using this preseason to really ramp back up and knock off a lot of the rust on my own game, really. It starts tonight,” he said.

Harrell isn’t wrong — the Lakers used him very differently than the Clippers. With the Clippers, he was primarily a pick-setting roll man who is both skilled in that role and developed genuine chemistry with Lou Williams, making them one of the most potent regular-season bench combos in the league. With the Lakers, Harrell was involved in about half as many pick-and-rolls (according to Synergy stats) and instead was asked to make that up with cuts to the rim. As a result, Harrell saw far fewer touches a game, and with that never found a natural rhythm in the Lakers system (the Lakers also were a more defensively focused team, and that is not Harrell’s strength).

Harrell is trying to get back to his game with the Wizards. Running on a second unit with a strong point guard in Aaron Holiday plus good role players — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma — could and should be a better fit.

Harrell will play hard and bring energy, but he needs to be put in the right situations to thrive, and that responsibility now falls to first-year head coach Wes Unseld Jr.