The Los Angeles Lakers have added the reigning Sixth Man of the Year to their upcoming title defense by agreeing to terms Friday with free-agent big man Montrezl Harrell.
Harrell, who spent the past three seasons with the Clippers, will be moving down the hallway at Staples Center to the Lakers. He agreed to a two-year deal, agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The deal is for the full midlevel exception: $9.25 million the first year and $9.72 million the second, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The second year has a player option.
The move adds a surprising new wrinkle to an already intense Lakers-Clippers rivalry. It initially caught former teammate Patrick Beverley by surprise, but the Clippers point guard later tweeted twice that he was happy for Harrell.
The Lakers also agreed to a one-year, $3.6 million deal with guard/forward Wesley Matthews, a source told Marks, confirming a report in The Athletic. Matthews, 34, has averaged 13.1 points in his 11 years in the NBA, including stops with Utah, Portland, Dallas, New York, Indiana and Milwaukee.
The Lakers’ agreement with Harrell came not long after Dwight Howard‘s agent, Charles Briscoe, told ESPN that the former Lakers center had agreed to a one-year deal with Philadelphia.
Harrell gives the defending world champions an aggressive and energetic power forward/center who is coming off his best regular season as a pro. But despite earning the Sixth Man of the Year award, Harrell enters this season with something to prove after a frustrating postseason.
Harrell — previously one of the NBA’s best bargains, making just $12 million over the past two seasons for the Clippers — averaged career highs of 18.6 points and 7.1 rebounds last season. But he struggled in the postseason after leaving the team and the bubble in Orlando, Florida, because of the death of his grandmother.
After missing all of the seeding games, Harrell, who said he was still grieving the loss of his best friend and biggest supporter, averaged just 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds in 18.7 minutes a game in the playoffs. The Clippers couldn’t contain Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic and blew a 3-1 lead as they were stunned by the Nuggets in the second round.
The Lakers are banking on Harrell to bounce back, with Anthony Davis‘ defensive prowess potentially covering any of Harrell’s defensive weaknesses and LeBron James facilitating and working with Harrell in potential pick-and-roll sets. Harrell thrived in pick-and-rolls with Lou Williams with the Clippers.
The Clippers and new coach Ty Lue are left with a void to fill off the bench. Harrell, who turns 27 in January, is entering his sixth NBA season and has improved his scoring and rebounding in each. He and Williams, who won the Sixth Man of the Year award the season before, gave the Clippers an unrivaled one-two punch off the bench.
Harrell led the league in double-doubles off the bench (11), tied for the most 30-plus-point games off the bench (four) and tied for fourth in field goal percentage (58.0%).
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