Montrezl Harrell is looking to follow former Louisville basketball star Samaki Walker.
In historic context, former Louisville basketball star Samaki Walker has become more well known over the years for his draft day get up than his actual play on the floor and many forget that the dude was a baller in the NBA.
Playing in 445 career games for five teams, Walker averaged 5.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, while shooting 46 percent from the field and became a hot commodity over the course of his career for his role playing ability. In fact, that ability led him to a play with the Los Angeles Lakers during their prime years with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, where he became an NBA Champion.
Walker became the seventh former Louisville player to win an NBA title, joining an illustrious list that includes Wes Unseld and Jack Coleman.
Now in the 2020 NBA bubble, another former Cardinal will look to add his name to said list, that being Montrezl Harrell of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Former Louisville basketball star Montrezl Harrell is ready for this moment
The Clippers got Harrell back on the floor after his nearly three week absence from the team following the death of his grandmother, and showed why many believe they are the favorites to win the NBA title. Playing 15 minutes, Harrell finished his first contest with six points and two rebounds, showing a little bit of rust but still bringing the energy we’ve all come to expect out of him.
Harrell has been one of the most dominant big men in the western conference this season, earning a finalist nod for the Sixth Man of the Year award after averaging a career-high 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 58 percent from the field. He was a huge part in pushing his team to the next level this season, especially as Paul George dealt with injuries, and now his team is hoping that his addition will spark them on a long playoff run.
Ever since signing Kawhi Leonard in free agency and subsequently adding Paul George via trade, the expectation has been that the Clippers would win it all. Those are tall expectations no matter who you are, but no one, including Harrell, has backed down or shown any worries about another team stopping them from reaching their goals.
Harrell’s become the heartbeat and energy of a team that has the chance to make Clippers history. Let’s not forget this LA team has never won or been to an NBA Championship and the franchise’s history has had more years of being the running joke of the league than playing competitive basketball. But because of the play of the teams stars, including Harrell, they find themselves set to make history.
Everything has been on the line this season for Harrell, who enters free agency this offseason looking for his first major pay day. Much like you’d’ expect, Harrell has risen to the occasion averaging career-highs or close to career-highs across the board while becoming one of the best rim running centers in the league.
There’s no way to tell just yet if Harrell will be back next year, but for now none of that matters. The Clippers have shown their need for Harrell throughout the bubble play, struggling with some of the more prominent big men and we saw the potential for that to be remedied during game one. Paul George was asked about his teammates return to action following the game, telling media:
“It was great to have Trez here. His energy was felt. His presence was missed. I thought he looked good for his first game … It was like he’s been with us for that time that he was gone. He just came in and kept rolling. Shout out, Trez.”
The NBA playoffs are a long journey (nearly three months) that requires the same level of focus and energy each night, and you can bet everything you have that the Clippers will be able to count on Harrell every single night to bring it. Over his career, Harrell has proven his ability to adapt and thrive to new situations and this will be no different.
Harrell pointed out following game one of the opening round of the playoffs that he’s got some work to do to get back into the swing of things but once he does he’s going to be a problem. There’s so much motivation for Harrell, including playing in honor of his late grandmother and for his future payday, and once that man is determined to get something – watch out.
Louisville basketball fans will be fortunate to get to watch two former stars lead their teams in the playoffs in Harrell and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz, but it’s the former who has the potential to become the first Cardinal since 2002 to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy.