Wizards

Wizards fans will love Montrezl Harrell

Wizards

Montrezl Harrell announced himself to Wizards fans on Wednesday night and, though he was playing in Toronto, they heard him loud and clear. What they saw in the Wizards' season-opening win over the Raptors was what you get from Harrell. He may be undersized for his position, he may not have a perimeter game, but he will provide relentless effort as a rebounder and rim-runner and the type of energy any basketball team would like to bring off their bench.

It was the full Harrell experience. He pulled down offensive rebounds and scored on putbacks. He threw down vicious dunks, screaming into the crowd afterward and sneering at anyone who would look his way while running down the floor.

Harrell makes it clear in interviews he has an edge, a perpetual chip on his shoulder. He's always been like that, but now he's trying to put a down year with the Lakers behind him and set himself up for a new deal in a contract year. 

"It's contagious and our guys feed off of it. He doesn't do it for that purpose, that's just who he is, that's how he competes," head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said. 

"So, I think it's great. We need those momentum plays when you have those lulls offensively. He's gonna get you second possessions, he's going to make a play defensively for you. Those are impactful moments that can change or shift the whole quarter."

 

Harrell had a big game against the Raptors. His 22 points were second on the team only to Bradley Beal. He also pulled in nine rebounds, three on offense, and he blocked a shot.

Harrell's 10 first-half points helped the Wizards build a sizable lead, as they went up by 29 at their peak and won by 15. 

"Really, I was just doing all the little things, just playing my game and letting it come to me. I tell people all the time, I'm blessed to be able to play this game and call it my job. I don't take that for granted," Harrell said.

Harrell, 28, was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year two years ago when he played for the Clippers. He moved down the hall to play for the Lakers and it just didn't go as planned. His role was reduced and his numbers followed.

After one season with the Lakers, he was traded to Washington where he is hoping for a fresh start. He talked about it all in detail during training camp and the preseason.

But now Harrell is done talking, he says, at least off the court.

"At the end of the day, man, I'm gonna do my job to help you remember who I am, simple as that. There's no need for me to keep talking, saying this over and over and over again," he said. "I just do my work just like this man next to me. It's what's done in those four lines. You can talk yourself all day, it ain't gonna mean nothing until you get in those four lines."

Harrell is in a bit of a unique spot in his career. His stock is down after last season, but he has a chance to earn a big contract next summer. That generally can go in very different directions for NBA players. Some succumb to the pressure. Some play selfish, looking for their own shot to boost their numbers for free agency.

Through one game, it doesn't look like Harrell will fall in either of those categories. The Wizards have a guy who has always played with extra motivation and now it's to an even greater degree.

That could translate to much more than on-court production. Judging by the social media reaction on Wednesday, Wizards fans are going to love the guy.