Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle started the majority of games during the first two years he actually played in the NBA after missing almost all of his first season with a broken leg, but coming into the 2016-17 campaign he’s had a different role.
Lakers head coach Luke Walton chose to bring Randle off the bench to start the year, and while the fourth-year forward didn’t take to the role right off the bat, he’s since flourished as a reserve, and as Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters pointed out, Randle is “the only player in the NBA averaging at least 11 points and 6 rebounds in 20 or fewer minutes per game.”
Randle explained to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times what’s allowed him embrace his role as a bench dynamo for Los Angeles:
“Strictly just wanting to win,” Randle said of what is motivating him. “You don’t work your butt off over the summer for no reason. That’s motivation in itself.”
Randle famously got into the best shape of his life over the summer, and his growth has shown on the court, with his newfound lightness allowing him to easily blaze past centers when he plays as a small-ball five for the Lakers.
Entering a contract year, it wouldn’t have been shocking for Randle to bristle at a role coming off of the bench, and while it seemed like that would be the case initially Randle has since accepted the move is not a demotion. Walton obviously saw how much more Randle’s game would blossom while primarily being guarded by bigger, slower players, and what looked like a roadblock to a payday for Randle might have actually turned into a golden ticket.
Randle says that’s not his motivation, however, and winning does make any move easier to accept. The Lakers are 5-8 now, and if they continue that skid, it will be worth watching to see if Randle’s motivation to win ends up no longer mitigating any dissatisfaction he may have with not being a starter.
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