Julius Randle was always destined to be in the NBA.
The Dallas, Texas native was once a highly recruited high school player (rank no. 3 overall) that decided to take his talents to Lexington to play for the Kentucky Wildcats. From there, he helped lead the Wildcats to the National Championship during his freshman year eventually losing to the UCONN Huskies. He of course left after his freshman year and declared for the NBA Draft where as we all know, was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers (7th overall) which coincidentally was favorite team growing up. Although he was drafted in a position that wasn’t as scrutinized as a top 3 pick, the expectations were just as great as one.
Those were Lakers legend, Kobe Bryant’s words to a rookie Julius Randle.
He was expected to help bring back the Lakers to elite company. His first Summer League and pre-season action showed that he was capable of filling that role and his career was off to a promising start. That was all thrown off-course in his first ever NBA game. Randle broke his tibia against the Rockets, 14 minutes into his rookie year. He eventually missed the rest of the season hoping to come back 100% for the next.
In what was his “rookie year,” Randle averaged a double-double (11.3 PPG and 10.2 RPG). Some fans however, were still not impressed. Although his stats were impressive and promising for a “rookie,” fans mumbled about how his lack of a jump shot and lack of defense would set the Lakers back more than help them. He shot around 43% for the season, while being mediocre to say the least, from outside the paint. At one point,
Lakers coach Byron Scott even decided to bench Randle for Larry Nance Jr.
Many fans were disappointed.
So disappointed to the fact that during the Lakers’ recent Summer League stint, Laker fans were on the Larry Nance Jr. bandwagon after he showcased an all-around game during summer. The fans were slowly leaning towards Larry Nance and leaving their former 7th pick behind.
And like poetry, that all changed when the Lakers played the Rockets again on opening night.
Randle, who many fans like to call “Bullyus,” finished the first game of the season with an 18-7-6 line on 81.8% shooting helping the Lakers secure their first win of the season in as many games. Julius showcased his versatile game, able to be an efficient scorer while grabbing boards and making plays for teammates, all while showing his potential as a defender. He helped the Lakers inch closer to the winning on both ends of the floor, first blocking a James Harden shot attempt and then scoring on the other end that increased LA’s lead over the Rockets. The versatile forward showed Lakers fans and the rest of the NBA that he is capable of being a Draymond Green type of player the team and fans want him to be. He reminded fans that he is still a very important part to making this Lakers team experience their glory days again.
His maturity for the game of basketball was also evident when he and Tyson Chandler of the Phoenix Suns got into a scuffle. Chandler attempted to bait him into committing silly mistakes to swing the game in Phoenix’s favor but it was Randle who decided to not go after the veteran center. Getting an iso on the left wing, the entire crowd was anticipating Randle to take it to Chandler but instead, Randle made the winning play by passing it to Jordan Clarkson for the three that ended up icing the game for the Lakers. It is those little plays that show how much better he has become as a player.
Now twelve games into the young season and fresh off a triple-double against the Nets, Julius shows no signs of slowing down and the Lakers along with their fans, should be more than ecstatic that their PF is only getting better from here on out.
The future is bright for Julius and his fellow Lakers.