Former Charlotte Hornets forward Montrezl Harrell pleaded guilty to a single count of misdemeanor marijuana possession on Wednesday, avoiding felony charges in the case that began with a traffic stop in Kentucky. Under the terms of the plea deal, Harrell was given a 30-day conditional jail term, probated for 12 months. If he completes his year-long probation without further legal trouble, he will not have to spend the 30-day sentence behind bars, Yahoo Sports writer and NBA analyst Chris Haynes revealed in a tweet on Wednesday.
Harrell became an NBA free agent earlier this year after finishing the 2021-2022 basketball season with the Charlotte Hornets. With the fate of the Kentucky marijuana charge now settled, he becomes a prospect of interest for several teams in the league, which were less likely to sign the veteran player while he was in legal peril.
Harrell Arrested in Kentucky in May
Harrell was pulled over by a state trooper for following too closely behind the vehicle in front of him on the morning of May 12 while he was driving a rented 2020 Honda Pilot southbound on I-75. In a police report cited by the Charlotte Observer, Trooper Jesse Owens wrote that after stopping Harrell’s vehicle in Madison County, Kentucky, he “observed” the odor of marijuana.
The citation also alleged that Harrell “admitted to being in possession of marijuana and produced a small amount from his sweatpants.” Law enforcement officers then searched the vehicle Harrell was driving. During the search, the trooper discovered “three pounds of marijuana in vacuum sealed bags” in a backpack that was found on the back seat of the vehicle, according to the traffic citation.
Harrell was originally charged with trafficking less than five pounds of marijuana. Under Kentucky state law, possession of more than eight ounces but less than five pounds of marijuana is classified as a Class D felony for the first offense. Those convicted of the charge are subject to a sentence of one to five years behind bars and a fine ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. A judge in Richmond, Kentucky approved amended charges in the case on Wednesday, resulting in Harrell’s guilty plea to misdemeanor marijuana possession and the suspended sentence and probation.
8-Year NBA Veteran
Harrell, a native of North Carolina, played eight seasons with the NBA, becoming a free agent at the end of last season. He played NCAA Division 1 college basketball for the University of Louisville Cardinals in Kentucky, where he averaged 11.6 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocked shots per game. As a freshman, he played on the Cardinals’ 2013 national championship team, although the NCAA later stripped the title from the team title for violations of league rules.
Harrell was chosen by the Houston Rockets in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft, the league’s 32nd pick overall that year. On September 19, 2015, he signed a three-year contract with the Rockets and made his NBA debut with the team in the opening game of the season against the Denver Nuggets, scoring eight points and pulling down three rebounds. During his rookie season, he was assigned to the Rockets D-league affiliate the Rio Valley Grande Vipers several times.
In June 2017, the Los Angeles Clippers traded Chris Paul to the Rockets, acquiring Harrell, Patrick Beverley, Sam Dekker, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Lou Williams, Kyle Wiltjer and a 2018 Houston first-round draft pick in the transaction. In September 2020, Harrell was named the NBA Sixth Man of the Year, an award given by the league for the season’s best bench player. That season, the Clippers went to the playoffs, losing in seven games against the Nuggets. Harrell averaged 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds per game in the playoffs which saw the Nuggets advance after starting the series down three games to one.
Harrell signed with the Los Angeles Lakers on November 22, 2020, making his debut with the team the following month and logging 17 points, 10 rebounds and three assists against the Los Angeles Clippers, his former team and Lakers’ crosstown rival. In August 2021, Harrell was traded to the Washington Wizards as part of a deal for point guard Russell Westbrook. In February 2022, he was traded to the Charlotte Hornets, scoring 15 points and six rebounds in his team debut on February 11. He became a free agent at the end of the 2021-2022 season.