If we have learned anything about Montrezl Harrell during his brief time with the Wizards so far, it's that he is consistent in his demeanor. In press conferences, he speaks fast with a North Carolina drawl, sometimes with so much to say he answers questions that weren't even asked. And on the court, as he showed in Tuesday night's preseason opener, he will bring an edge, no matter what.
Even in a preseason game, he was fighting for loose rebounds, making second efforts and expressing shock at a referee's call. Harrell, it appears, only knows one way to go and that is all-out.
"That’s just how I’m wired, man. I play with a lot of energy, I’m constantly talking on the floor. Some good, some bad at times. But that’s just how I am," he said,
In Tuesday's loss to the Rockets, though, Harrell said he did feel something different. While it may not have been noticeable to fans and media watching the game, Tuesday represented something personal to him.
Essentially, it began what he sees as a fresh start after one season with the Lakers.
"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, 27, won the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award in 2019-20 with the Clippers, then moved across the Staples Center to join the defending-champion Lakers. But by joining a better team with more talent in the frontcourt, Harrell's role was reduced. He went from averaging 18.6 points on 12.9 shots with the Clippers to 13.5 points on 8.7 attempts with the Lakers.
What Harrell's role becomes with the Wizards has yet to be seen, but he does sense a greater responsibility already as a leader. Harrell has drawn praise for how vocal he is on the court, which is a point of emphasis for new head coach Wes Unseld Jr.
"I want to be that back-up voice for Brad (Beal) whenever we really need it," Harrell said.
Harrell may be best-suited for the No. 2 center role in Washington, given that's where he had his best season with the Clippers. Daniel Gafford started against the Rockets on Tuesday, while Harrell came off the bench to give the Wizards nine points, 11 rebounds and a block. He was 2-for-7 on the field, which he noted, but all in all it was a strong debut.
Beyond the numbers, his teammates and coaches also got to see how his personality can impact a game. Unseld Jr. referred to his physical style of play and talking as "intimidating."
"Trez is a dog, man. He’s a dog. He’s gonna bring it every night," Spencer Dinwiddie said. "He’s going to rip your heart out. I think it’s a certain presence and a certain mentality that it permeates the group."
As Harrell said, the Lakers may not have seen the best of him, but maybe the Wizards will.