Former Los Angeles Lakers center Montrezl Harrell, now with the Hornets, was charged in May with drug trafficking after a car in which he was a passenger was pulled over in Kentucky on May 12. During a subsequent search, police said they found a backpack with three pounds of marijuana in it, though Harrell, according to TMZ, claimed only the small amount he was carrying in his pants belonged to him.
The charge, a class D felony, comes with up to five years in prison.
But Harrell’s lawyers told TMZ in a June 21 article that, as the case plays out, it will be shown that Harrell did nothing wrong, pointing out that Harrell “was never placed under arrest.”
From a basketball perspective, the charge could not have come at a worse time for Harrell, who is fighting to keep his NBA career alive. He is only 28 and averaged 13.1 points and 6.1 rebounds last season, split between Washington and Charlotte, but his defensive shortcomings have been a problem during his career.
Harrell’s Lawyers: ‘Legal & Factual Issues With This Case’
Harrell’s attorneys, Drew Findling and Marissa Goldberg of Findling Law in Atlanta, told TMZ:
We want to be clear that Mr. Harrell was not driving the vehicle and following the stop he was only given a ticket to appear in court at a later date for a marijuana-related charge as were all occupants of the vehicle.
Mr. Harrell was never placed under arrest. We believe that there are legal and factual issues with this case that will be addressed in court, if that becomes necessary.
Mr. Harrell, is a devoted family man and a committed professional basketball player and has never been a part of any form of marijuana trafficking or any other illegal activity.
Harrell Had 1 Rocky Season With the Lakers
Harrell was with the Lakers for one year, in 2020-21, but signed a two-year contract and was included in the deal with the Wizards that brought back guard Russell Westbrook. Harrell averaged 13.5 points in 22.9 minutes, and repeatedly expressed disappointment in his role with the team.
Now, Harrell is entering free agency and looking at a market that is a bit saturated with big guys, especially one-way players like Harrell, who had been the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2019-20 when he was playing for the Clippers. He was traded to the Hornets by Washington last season, his fourth team in three years.
DeAndre Ayton of the Suns is the top center on the market, but Jusuf Nurkic, Mitchell Robinson, Nic Claxton and Mo Bamba all easily rank ahead of Harrell on teams’ free-agent depth charts. Bobby Portis, Kevon Looney and Isaiah Hartenstein likely do, too, leaving Harrell fairly low on the big-man totem pole entering free agency. The legal problem, even if it eventually does not stick, won’t do much to help his stock on the market.
“He was already looking at a depressed market for a guy like him, good scorer off the bench, but does not defend much,” one Western Conference exec said. “No one thinks he is going to jail or anything. Just that, now it will be very easy to move on to the next guy on your list rather than wait and see how this plays out.”