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Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell has flavor to match his bold game – Press Enterprise

 

LOS ANGELES — Montrezl Harrell is a basketball expressionist – exaggerated, ferocious, forever screaming.

“He is, for me, the identity of our team,” said Avery Bradley, himself a rugged defender. “A hard grit player who brings it every single night and every single possession. And he energizes our team when he plays that way.”

Harrell’s outsized energy, and his 16.3 points and 7.2 rebounds off the bench every night, are a big reason the Clippers — yes, the Clippers — are 15-6 and leading the Western Conference a quarter of the way through the NBA season.

But Harrell’s got it in him to move the needle in even more ways.

Beside being one of the early frontrunners for the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and a contender, with teammate Lou Williams, for Sixth Man honors, Harrell, an expressive dresser, is an aspiring entrepreneur. The 6-foot-8 center-forward hopes soon to see his line of Clippers-inspired T-shirts in the stands at Staples Center, where Harrell’s team has won nine consecutive.

Harrell’s also an established sneaker collector, and one of the league leaders in the recent customization boom, a trend that’s turned shoes into canvases for artists such as Kelsey Amy to depict, well, just about anything.

“Back in summer, Trezz DM’d me on Instagram and he was like, ‘I’d love to do a lot of shoes,’ ” said Amy, a Portland, Ore.-based artist known as Shme. “I was like, ‘OK, first of all, that’s what everybody says. How many are we talking?’

“He says, ‘Thirty.’

“And I’m like, ‘Now I know you’re not being serious.’”

But he was. Serious as the two taps to his chest before every free throw to honor his children, Amari and Alyeshia.

“It’s just me expressing myself,” Harrell said of that substantial shoe order, which included callbacks to the 24-year-old Harrell’s childhood, such as “The Boondocks,” “Good Burger” and “Family Guy.”

After Wednesday’s win over Phoenix, while he closed the clasps on several glittering necklaces, including a pair adorned with family photos, and another with a diamond-studded Energizer Bunny, Harrell explained.

“Everything I do has a meaning behind it,” he said, his stream-of-consciousness delivery a complement to his on-court freneticism. “I’m not doing anything just for the norm, or just to be doing it. Everything behind me is motivated, driven. It’s got a meaning behind it of some sorts.”

That includes that vast shoe collection. It got got kick-started when he was a freshman at Louisville and has outgrown one room, to more than 2,500 pairs. But it’s not the number that should impress you, Harrell said, it’s the shoes, the rare LeBrons and retro Jordans, the KDs, Kyries and Kobes…

“I’m not going after every shoe that comes,” Harrell said. “I’m actually digging into the actual finding the shoe, where it comes from. I’m trying to get the original shoe, not the remastered one, or the ones that came back out in other years. It’s fun, it’s a hobby. Searching, the research — you really got to do the research on the shoes because there’s a lot of people trying to sell fakes out here.”

Harrell – who always changes his shoes at halftime, per superstition – gets mentioned among the sneakerhead greats, guys like P.J. Tucker, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving.

A deep dive into basketball numbers indicates he’s about as productive during his time on the floor as a couple of those guys.

According to basketball-reference.com, the box plus/minus stat, popular with proud basketball nerds, indicates that Harrell, who plays an average of 25.8 minutes per game, is 7.1 points better than the average NBA player over 100 possessions. According to that metric, he ranks ninth in the entire NBA — between No. 8 James (7.5) and No. 10 Irving (7.1).

“I’m blessed to play this game of basketball, something that I love to do and I’m able to call it my job,” said Harrell, who’s broken through with 20 or more points in seven games this season, something he did only nine times in his previous three years in the NBA.

“I don’t know if I could be able to do that 9-to-5, so I’m blessed to be able to dribble a ball and be able do something that I’m passionate about, and blessed to be good at. A lot of people out there are trying to get where I’m at. There’s not that many spots out there, I’m just blessed to have one of them.”

He’s blessed, too, he said, to be building toward the release of a line of T-shirts, including one he modeled before a recent game that was inspired by the nickname for the Clippers’ bench unit last year — the “Goon Squad.”

“I like fashion … so this is something that I’m just kind of trying out,” said Harrell, a native of Tarboro, N.C., who describes his style as a hippie-, rock star-type, open to blending designer clothing pieces with hockey jerseys, ripped jeans and beanies, or whatever else feels good and free.

“It’s definitely difficult when you’re trying to do something and building it from the ground up yourself, it’s definitely hard, but I enjoy it. It’s a fascinating process. I’m working with a lot of different people (and) I was able to get a partner with a girl back home in North Carolina who does a great job, so it’s fun. I’m learning to be more things than just a basketball player.”

Ask his teammates about him, and their automatic reaction is to grin.

“Trezz is Trezz, man,” teammate Sindarius Thornwell said. “He expresses himself through everything: his clothes, his shoes, how he plays. That’s just how he expresses himself and how he just releases everything.”

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