The Los Angeles Lakers haven’t made the playoffs since the 2012-13 NBA season, a full year before Julius Randle joined the team in a rookie year that would be cut short just minutes into his debut.
Since Randle has joined the team, the Lakers have won 21, 17, and 26 games each year, far below the historical standard for the once blemish-less and proud franchise.
The Lakers already equaled that 26-game win total this season with 22 games left to play in their win over the Atlanta Hawks, and while they likely won’t make the playoffs, Randle and the rest of the young core have all taken major strides forward in their development.
In the process, they’ve become a solid, fun and competitive team that can’t be overlooked by the rest of the league. That final change is a notable one after the last few seasons.
And during an interview with James Worthy, Robert Horry and Chris McGee, Randle reflected on what it meant to be part of the roster that finally broke the Lakers’ run of complete futility, via Spectrum SportsNet:
“Well first, guys like you, Big Game, and Big Shot, you guys laid the ground for us. For us to be able to wear that Laker uniform every day, means something. We don’t want teams overlooking us or feeling like they got an easy win. It’s been year after year after year of us building and growing and trusting each other. From the trusting each other standpoint, it starts on the defensive end with us. I keep saying it night in and night out, if we really defend, it leads to us trusting each other on the offensive end and making the easy play.”
The way Randle describes the years it took for the Lakers to make the type of progress they’ve shown this season is also an important reminder that young players don’t get better overnight.
Most of the time it takes years of (sometimes painstaking) development for lottery picks like Randle to reach their full potential, and the Lakers have a full roster of players like that. Developing a young core takes patience, something worth remembering the next time Lonzo Ball shoots 0-for-9 in a game or Brandon Ingram looks lost out on the court.
It takes a few years for teenage-to-early-twenties lottery picks to figure things out, but the Lakers making progress in the right direction, and back towards being the same type of contender that the teams Horry and Worthy contributed to were.