The NBA has a storied tradition of big men protecting small guards. It's common sense. There's little a 6-3 guard can do if a center goes over the line on a hard foul, so it's up to his bigger teammates to step in and make sure things don't get out of hand. This tradition played out again on Thursday when the Los Angeles Lakers played against the Toronto Raptors.
Dennis Schroder fouled OG Anunoby on a fastbreak, and Anunoby didn't take kindly to that. He threw Schroder off of his back, and Harrell immediately raced in to shove him. That led to an all-out altercation between the players on the floor.
Fred VanVleet, DeAndre' Bembry and Talen Horton-Tucker all got suspended for their roles in the fight. Harrell avoided that fate, which was somewhat surprising given his role as an instigator. However, he did draw a $20,000 fine, and that's not an outcome Schroder is willing to accept. His teammate protected him, so now, he's showing that he has Harrell's back by offering to pay his fine.
"Who got fined? Trezz?" Schroder asked reporters Thursday. "Oh, yeah we're going to take care of that. He had my back, so we're going to take care of that for sure."
Financially speaking, it makes sense for Schroder to cover the cost of the fine. He is making $15.5 million this season to Harrell's $9.3 million, and as he reportedly declined an $84 million contract extension, he clearly expects to be well-paid this offseason when both of them become unrestricted free agents.
For Harrell, the financial calculus didn't factor in. He saw an opponent go after a teammate and rushed into action.
"My teammate was swept off of us his feet onto his back after holding somebody up, so my beef was with anybody who wasn't wearing a white jersey," Harrell said Tuesday.
The Lakers are still playing without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Literal on-court victories are going to be rare until they return. But this is a moral victory, proof of the camaraderie the Lakers have developed in their locker room. They look out for the teammates, and that counts for something.