Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle has had an up-and-down season in the team’s rotation. Head coach Luke Walton chose to bring him off of the bench to start the year before ultimately deciding to move Randle into the starting lineup.
Randle took all of that bouncing around in stride and has become one of the Lakers’ best players this season, averaging a career-high 16 points per game to go with 7.9 rebounds while shooting 56.6 percent from the field, which is also a career high for the fourth-year forward.
Randle has also made massive progress as a defender, and no one sequence has better displayed all of his growth on both ends of the floor than a sequence in Los Angeles’ loss to the New Orleans Pelicans.
Randle blocked Emeka Okafor before using a crossover in transition to get all the way to the rim for a dunk.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 23, 2018
Walton praised his athletic forward for that sequence, which led Randle to express his respect for Walton, and what those plays shown above demonstrated about his development. Via Bill Oram of the Southern California Register:
“I always take everything Coach says with honor and try not to let him down,” he said. “With me, I guess it shows both parts of my game that I try to take pride in. Defensive end and being able to push it and make a play for myself or others down the court.”
Randle could have sulked about his bench role, especially in a contract year and when he was clearly one of the team’s best players, but he rarely did. Instead, he used the slight as motivation to improve every area of his game and force Walton to put him into the starting lineup.
Whether or not Randle remains with the Lakers in restricted free agency this summer is up in the air, but if he does, the relationship he and Walton have forged should pay dividends for both men and the organization moving forward.