The Los Angeles Lakers have struggled to stay healthy during the 2016-2017 NBA season, and on Tuesday night they will once again be short-handed against the Denver Nuggets, as the team announced that power forward Julius Randle has been ruled out for the game.
Randle, who has started in all 44 games he has played in for the Lakers this season, has been battling pneumonia. According Lakers Nation reporter Serena Winters, Randle has been cleared to resume basketball activities, but is not yet ready to play in a game:
Julius Randle will not play in tomorrow’s game vs. Denver but he has been cleared to resume basketball activities.
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) January 31, 2017
In their last outing against the Utah Jazz, head coach Luke Walton turned to bruising big man Tarik Black to fill in for Randle in the starting lineup. However, Black has spent most of his minutes at backup center this season, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Walton turn to someone else against the Nuggets.
Using Black at power forward does have the added benefit of freeing up minutes for rookie Ivica Zubac to man the middle, but the Lakers have two more natural power forwards that are capable of stepping into Randle’s spot in Luol Deng and Larry Nance Jr.
Regardless of who fills in, Randle will be missed. His energy usually creates fun matchups with Nuggets power forward Kenneth Faried, and Randle has shown impressive growth over the course of the season to become one of the team’s impact players. On the season, Randle is averaging 13 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. With the Lakers preparing to head out for a major five game road trip, the team will have to hope that one more night of rest will allow Randle to play on Thursday night in Washington against the Wizards.