Julius Randle had a frustrating rookie season, watching from the sideline for all but 12 minutes of his first campaign while healing up from a broken leg. Randle’s frustrations continued through summer league this past July as a he had a strict minutes restriction that saw him capped at 20 minutes a night while also sitting out back to back games.
Heading into the season, however, the hope was that those frustrations would dissipate. Randle has been working hard on his game, his body, and, via word of mouth, he looks very good. Just because he’s progressing nicely, though, does not guarantee his frustrations will be fully behind him. Especially if he was hoping to get a solid endorsement from his head coach about being the starting power forward once the season began.
In a sitdown with the OC Register’s Bill Oram, Byron Scott talked about a wide variety of topics, but these answers about Julius Randle and his potential to start did stand out to me:
Q. Similarly Julius has that year under his belt but not on the court. Very high expectations of, “Will he start?” How do you try not to give him too much too quickly?
A. Kind of the same way I brought Jordan along. I won’t throw these guys out in the fire unless I think they’re ready. No matter if they were the second pick or the 46th pick?
Q. Should we take that to mean Julius won’t start right away?
A. You should take that to mean that Julius has developed nicely, and I’m waiting to see when he can go a full practice every day for the next two weeks. That means training camp throughout the preseason games. And then we’ll go from there.
It’s perfectly fair for Byron to take a wait and see approach with the young players — including Randle. He may be entering his 2nd year, but he hasn’t really played any NBA level basketball outside of last preseason and the past two summer leagues (and I wouldn’t even call those “NBA level”, honestly). If the coach wants to see more from the kid in practice and this upcoming preseason, I don’t see why that’s a major problem.
That said, while a lot of the focus is on D’Angelo Russell developing into a future star to push the Lakers back into the conversation of competitive teams, Randle’s development is just as important. He will need minutes and a lot of rope to play through mistakes in order to get to where he needs to be as a player. After being drafted with the 7th pick in 2014, Scott would (sometimes subtly, sometimes not) call out Randle in the press for various miscues or what he wanted to see more of, keeping him on a pretty tight leash in the process.
This upcoming season, I am hopeful his stance softens. Not because Randle won’t deserve some hard coaching (all players do, at one point or another), but because the investment and potential payout he represents is vital to the team’s success. This isn’t to say that Randle should start — though that’s what I would like to see.
Ultimately, I am hopeful this is much ado about nothing. Bringing the rookies along slowly is fine, but their development is one of the key priorities of this season and Byron, rhetoric aside, surely understands this.