LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Montrezl Harrell was close last year. This year, his grandmother told him, he was going to win the Sixth Man Award.
The only disappointment was she didn’t live to see it.
“It just hurts that I can’t take it home to her,” Harrell said, with the trophy sitting beside him.
He won it on Friday, keeping the honor for the league’s top reserve with the Los Angeles Clippers for the third straight season.
Harrell ended the two-year run of teammate Lou Williams — who finished third — and gave the Clippers four winners in the last five years. Harrell and Williams helped the Clippers have the league’s highest-scoring bench for the second straight season.
Harrell received 58 first-place votes from a panel of 100 writers and broadcasters, earning 397 points. Dennis Schroder of Oklahoma City was second with 35 first-place votes and 328 points, while Williams got the other seven first-place votes and 127 points.
Voting took account only games through March 11 and none during the restart. Harrell didn’t play during that after leaving the team in Disney to go home because of his grandmother’s death, but returned to help the Clippers into the second round of the playoffs.
Harrell was a finalist last year, finishing third. He said his grandmother told him he would get it this year, that he would be acknowledged for how he works in the game she introduced him to and that he fell in love with.
“We definitely talked about it and she told me that this year was going to be my year,” Harrell said. “It’s tough. It’s tough.”
The Clippers averaged 51.5 points from their bench, continuing to get strong play from their second unit. Before Williams’ consecutive awards, Jamal Crawford won the last of his three awards in 2016.
“He epitomizes what a Sixth Man of the Year Award winner is and trust me, we’re getting used to them here with Lou Williams and Jamal Crawford in the past,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “To have Trez join the group is really amazing.”
Harrell is a 6-foot-8 force of energy, outworking fellow big men on the boards and outracing them on fast breaks. He averaged a career-best 18.6 points in 63 games, including two starts, through March 11.
Williams presented the award to Harrell at practice, and Harrell wore a shirt with Williams’ picture on it to his press conference.
“It was amazing for your teammate, a guy that you look at as a mentor, a vet in this game who you would love to have your career go as long as his,” Harrell said. “Like I said, a guy who was the carbon copy that could be presented as this could be his award, man. He’s won three of them.”
But the 26-year-old Harrell, in his fifth NBA season, was just a little better this time in the eyes of the voters.
He led the league with 11 double-doubles off the bench and had four 30-point games, tied for the most. With he and Williams leading the way, the Clippers’ bench outscored their opponents in 53 of 64 games before the season was suspended.
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