Just as common as the Los Angeles Lakers struggling with their free throws has been inconsistent playing time for Julius Randle. He’s logged 20 minutes or fewer in three of the past five games, including playing just 11 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
That was particularly curious considering Kyle Kuzma had the worst shooting night of his career, and was limited in mobility after taking a knee to his quad. Lakers head coach Luke Walton has often been evasive when discussing Randle’s playing time, but he provided some clarity at Friday’s shootaround.
“Some nights when he doesn’t play big minutes, it’s because other guys are rolling, and some nights it’s because I don’t think he’s playing up to the standard that he’s set,” Walton explained.
“I want him to feel and realize the difference in those nights, as part of his growth as a player.”
Walton declined to specify which of the two reasons was behind Randle’s limited playing time against the Grizzlies.
“It was one of the two, he knows,” Walton said. “Sometimes it’s a combination of both of those two. Julius has shown us how great he can be. I believe in Julius and I continue to challenge him.”
Randle was initially disgruntled with being relegated to the bench, but eventually said it was a role he’d learned to embrace. That’s not been the case with his reduced minutes, however, of which Randle recently said he didn’t feel like he had any choice as to whether or not to accept it.
An underlying layer to the situation was the Lakers deciding against offering Randle a contract extension prior to the deadline last October, plus persistent trade rumors.
But while the former seventh overall pick remains with the team, Walton has made it clear what they hope to see from Randle. “A lot of times we want him playing fast. We want him running into screens, he’s such a dynamic roller when he does it that he collapses the defense with how he can move around the court,” Walton explained.
“So those are the things we’re consistently looking for him to do.”
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