These were words frequently used by scouts prior to the 2015 NBA Draft when discussing Louisville junior Montrezl Harrell. When Harrell was asked about where that energy came from before the draft, he said “I always play with a chip on my shoulder”. That grudge enlarged tremendously when Harrell, who had been considered a lock for the first round, fell to the second round to be selected by the Houston Rockets.
The energy that Harrell brought at the college level combined with the chip of being a second rounder made him hungry to get on the court and prove what teams had missed out on. Harrell’s time as a role player finally came this year as he saw time in the second unit, but when starting center Clint Capela went down in mid-December with a fibula fracture, the opportunity arose for Montrezl Harrell to make his case.
Montrezl Harrell is making his case.
In Harrell’s seven games with Capela out, he has averaged 15.7 points per game and 4.5 rebounds.In the previous game that James Harden had a record setting 53 point triple-double, Harrell had his own breakout game with 29 points against the Clippers. The team has not missed a beat with Capela out, and the emergence of Harrell is a big part of that.
It feels as if most players who were struggling before this season on the Rockets have now found a productive place under Mike D’Antoni’s system. Montrez Harrell is one of those players who has been a nice fit under D’Antoni’s pace up and high scoring style. Harrell has the rare ability to get the crowd on it’s feet every time he touches the ball, and his exciting dunks have the ability to change the momentum of the game in the Rockets favor.
The exciting play of Montrezl Harrell and consistency of Nene should merit not making any roster changes with trades. When Clint Capela comes back later this month, the Rockets should continue to give Montrezl Harrell an uptick in minutes from what he saw earlier in the year because he has proved that his energy is something that is not replicated with any other big man on the team. His play is demanding that the Rockets coaches give him a longer look at an increased role on the team.
Embracing opportunity is hard for the average bench player to do in the NBA, but Montrezl Harrell is showing why is anything but the average bench player.
Photo by Elizabeth Conley, Houston Chronicle