Montrezl Harrell stunned the NBA world when he decided to cross the Staples Center hallway by leaving the Los Angeles Clippers for the rival Los Angeles Lakers. Harrell originally landed in Los Angeles as part of the Chris Paul trade with the Houston Rockets, and had been a Clipper for the past three seasons. When the time came for him to explore free agency, though, he wasn't satisfied with their efforts to retain him. When a reporter asked Monday if it felt like the Clippers wanted him back, Harrell responded "Apparently not if I'm on the other side."
"If you spend your career in any place long enough, you're going to want to continue playing there and growing there," Harrell said at his introductory Zoom media session as a Laker. "Of course, I still have great respect for those guys and for that organization. But as far as if they wanted me back? Obviously, it just doesn't seem that way, does it?"
The Clippers, with full Bird Rights, could pay Harrell anything up to his maximum salary. The Lakers, meanwhile, were limited to the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, starting at $9.3 million. They offered that entire amount, while the Clippers' offer is unknown. Harrell, apparently appreciative of the Lakers' dedication, reportedly left money on the table to join them over the Charlotte Hornets, according to Brad Turner of the L.A. Times. He wanted to be a Laker as badly as the Lakers wanted him to join the team.
The Clippers ultimately landed Serge Ibaka with their own non-taxpayer mid-level exception. That hard-capped them at the apron, around $138.9 million. With a $64 million extension for Marcus Morris also on the books, the Clippers simply didn't have enough room under the hard cap to make Harrell a competitive offer. They prioritized signing Ibaka and keeping Morris, and as a result, Harrell is a Laker.