The Los Angeles Lakers came into this season with some hope that despite low expectations, the team would be able to surprise some people. Much of that had to do with the return of Kobe Bryant and the addition of Jeremy Lin, but nearly every fan was looking forward to seeing the growth of first-round pick, Julius Randle.
Randle seemed to be improving through the preseason, and he offered fans the one player who seemed like a lock to be a cornerstone of the Lakers future. Unfortunately, Randle succumbed to a broken fibula in the Lakers’ season opener and will miss the entire regular season.
The entire Lakers team and the crowd inside Staples Center lost all of their energy as the team would fall to the Houston Rockets.
The team can not afford to dwell on the loss of their prized rookie as their ridiculously difficult early-season schedule continues, but his injury definitely changes things for the Lakers — both this season and for the future.
So we asked our experts, what does Julius Randle’s injury mean for the Lakers season and future? This is what they had to say:
Nathan Kim (@Kimchiz): Julius Randle’s injury was absolutely horrific. The incident is simply sad and depressing.
Randle is only 19-years old and the Laker’s highest draft pick since James Worthy. He is a player with the pressures of the franchise’s future on his shoulders and one of the few things to look forward to this season. His premature exit this season, marks a loss of hope for many fans who believed Randle would be able to make a difference in the team this season.
Randle’s injury was a major hit to the team’s morale. The look of the Laker players surrounding Randle on his stretcher said it all. As they could see the unrestrained emotion of the young player’s disappointment and fear through the tears in his eyes, they couldn’t help feeling for the rookie.
This was evident in the last 5 minutes of the game and even affirmed by Byron Scott as the Laker’s only continued to play because there was time left on the clock. Their minds were clearly not in the game, but on the condition of their fallen teammate.
I will say however, that Randle’s injury should not affect his future as a prominent player in the league. The injury was sad in the fact that it was the first game for a player with a bright future. However, it was not an injury that will affect his longevity as a player.
He should be back next season, ready to play hard and perhaps make up for the time lost this season. Laker fans can hope that Randle will come back and dominate, much like Blake Griffin did after his draft year injury during the 2009-2010 season.
Kevin Chan (@Kevin_Cruiser): Julius Randle’s injury is absolutely devastating for Lakers fans. Sure, he may not have propelled the Lakers towards the playoffs, but many fans were eager to see him develop over the course of the season.
Randle is the Lakers first lottery player since 2005 and he’s the highest drafted player since 1982. There was some legitimate hype about Randle potentially vying for Rookie of the Year. But all of that went out the window after the first game. For this season there isn’t really much to look forward to except for Kobe’s resurgence.
At some point the Lakers will have to move on without Kobe and Randle is a big part of rebuilding for the future. Hopefully Randle makes a full recovery and has a Blake Griffin like “rookie year.” I still think Randle has the potential to be the face of the Laker’s franchise post Kobe.
If the Lakers struggle this year and manage to keep their top-five protected first rounder, then next year could be exciting with two lottery picks on the squad. The Lakers future is murky, but one thing is for sure – Kobe won’t be around forever and somebody will have to fill his shoes. Randle could be that guy, but unfortunately we’ll have to wait another year to find out.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): For a 19-year old to break his leg in his NBA debut with the team he had grown up rooting for is absolutely heartbreaking. Short-term, the Lakers should be able to get by as the team gets healthy, but long term, worries me some.
The Lakers will be able to make due this season. Ed Davis has proven to be a contributor and Ryan Kelly played very well last season and should be just fine in some decent minutes once he is healthy.
The future, however, becomes a little more questionable because the Lakers now have to wait another year to find out exactly what they have in Randle. By going through the growing pains of a rookie season, the Lakers could get a good gauge on Randle’s role and then make necessary moves in the draft and free agency.
In all likelihood, Randle will make a full recovery and be a major part of the Lakers’ rebuilding project. Unfortunately for fans, we won’t get to see the beginning of that growth, and for the Lakers, they have to wait even longer to see just how good Randle can be.
Ryan Ward (@Lakers_Examiner): Losing rookie Julius Randle for the season is a massive blow for the Los Angeles Lakers. Not only will it hurt the rookie’s progress by missing his first year with the team, but the injury could be a sign of things to come.
The Lakers, along with many other teams that showed interest in the Kentucky product, were concerned about a foot injury that was rumored to require surgery. Now Randle’s future is up in the air in terms of whether injuries will be a persistent problem for the lottery pick.
Although it is unfortunate that Randle went down in his debut, I believe he’ll be a great player in the future. Patience isn’t a virtue many Lakers fans have had to practice, but it will be something that needs to be moving forward. Randle will be a crucial part of the future. It’ll just take a little longer than expected.
Russell Valenzuela (@RussVal4): The Lakers are expected to take a step back without Julius Randle. It’s not one that immediately ends the season, but one that will force change in the way the Lakers go about their games.
Already a vital part of the Laker game plan, Ed Davis’ role and importance is due to increase. Davis has shown potential with his time in Toronto and Memphis but struggled to find proper playing time. Without Julius Randle in the lineup, there will be more minutes for Davis to grab.
Davis won’t be the only one as Ryan Kelly will be sure to get more action than originally planned. As a result, the offensive game plan will have to change a bit. Despite Byron Scott’s desire to shoot less threes, he may have to lighten up when Kelly finally suits up for the Lakers.
However, the Lakers are almost guaranteed to hit the lottery without the depth they once had in the front court. They still won’t be nearing towards the league’s worst record as long as Kobe Bryant is pushing hard for wins, essentially putting the Lakers in the worst position they can be in for draft purposes.
This year’s team is still better than last year’s, so the team will need to strike in the lottery to keep their top-5 protected pick away from Phoenix. Any consolation the Lakers have will be in the pick they received from Houston which is lottery protected.[divide]
Lakers Julius Randle Fractures Right Tibia, Kobe’s Reaction