Maurice Harkless hopes to stand out as key role player for Clippers
Nearly forgotten in the wake of the excitement of the Clippers landing free agent stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George was their acquisition of a key role player in Maurice Harkless.
Even Clippers coach Doc Rivers admitted Monday after his team’s first practice that he hadn’t given much thought on that July 1 night when they got Harkless about how the 6-foot-9 forward gives them more versatility, length and depth.
“You didn’t think about it much on the night we did it,” Rivers said a few hours before the Clippers boarded a flight to Honolulu for training camp. “Like about a month ago when we first started meeting together as a coaching staff, you start thinking, ‘Oh, we got Mo Harkless.’ We have more on our team. And then you watch what he can do.”
They have already seen that Harkless is willing to speak up and provide advice to the younger players.
They have seen that he’s a multi-dimensional player capable of playing several positions.
Clippers’ offseason workouts and camaraderie combined with the leadership of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George could make a difference to title hopes.
They have gleamed this from the one practice and in the pickup games the Clippers had before camp started.
“[He’s] very vocal, very good communicator,” Clippers guard Landry Shamet, a second-year player, said. . “I think that’s the biggest thing, honestly. He’s a really good talker. He has a lot of good perspective defensively and offensively. He grabbed me a couple of times today [and] told me just some actions him and I can get into offensively, what he was looking for, what he was thinking of on this play. Maybe it was different from what I said or what I did. Really good communicator.
“[He’s] versatile, can do a lot of things. I think he adds an interesting element to our team offensively and defensively.”
Harkless had spent his previous four seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers. But the Clippers acquired him in a four-team deal in which Harkless had gone to the Miami Heat before he was re-routed to LA.
The Clippers prided themselves on being a scrappy team that didn’t need superstars. Now they have two, but they say their identity will not change.
He had a team-friendly contract on the books for $11.5 million for this final season.
On the court, Harkless has been pretty productive.
Over his seven-year career, he has averaged 7.3 points and 3.7 rebounds. He has shot 47.6% from the field, 32.3% from three-point range. He has shown that he can play small and power forward, and defend each position well.
“I like the fact that when we have him on the floor you can switch – obviously that’s if Paul and Kawhi are playing – you can switch two, three, four and they are the same size,” Rivers said. “[There are] not many teams that can literally do that. And you can’t say, Kawhi, Paul, Mo, who’s the better defender? That’s pretty nice to be able to have that. And then offensively Mo has the ability to make some threes, but he really puts the ball on the floor well, so he gives us another guy that can attack.”
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