Houston Rockets second-year big man Montrezl Harrell played his ass off against the Blazers last week, finishing just shy of a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes of action.
Now like Cinderella's carriage has turned back into a pumpkin, Harrell's minutes again will go back to nearly zero. He missed Saturday’s win against the Jazz with a leg injury, but it’s unlikely he would have played much if healthy.
"I told him, it's a tough position to be in," Mike D'Antoni said. "He doesn't get regular minutes and he should."
Harrell is caught between a rock and a hard place. He deserves minutes, but so do the guys that are in front of him. Right now, the Rockets are finding minutes for Harrell by giving Nene a night off on back-to-back situations.
Minutes may continue to trickle down in the weeks to come as they continue to find Nene more time to rest, but right now, this is the role that Harrell has been given.
"I just know we got a lot of experienced bigs on our team," Harrell said. "I know when my time comes, I'm going to go out there do the things that are going to help my team win."
Harrell also referenced going through this last year when he had not only Clint Capela in front of him but also Dwight Howard. Last year, however, there really wasn't a role for Harrell. Some nights he'd get called on and play, but most nights he wouldn't. He played 12 games for Rio Grande Valley in the D-League.
Is there a blood moon out tonight? Yes, ok then play Harrell. Did we cross a black cat's path? Yes, ok then play Harrell. There was never much rhyme or reason to the Rockets’ use of him.
This season, it's different, there is a role for him. It might not be as big as he or the coaches would like, but at least it exists, and Harrell understands he doesn't need to make up for lost time and play extra hard.
"I'm just doing what I do naturally, and that's play hard," Harrell said.
In the three games he's gotten regular play he has averaged 10 points and 7.3 rebounds. When he gets the time, he can shine. For now, it's when Nene gets rest. Later in the season, it could be just because they can't keep him off the court.