When Luke Walton became head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers, he inherited one of the best collections of young talent in the entire NBA. The first of their three straight lottery picks was Julius Randle, a physically-gifted power forward from Kentucky.
Randle has a unique blend of strength, speed, and playmaking ability that very few players in the NBA can match, and that is something that stood out to Walton.
Walton told Michael Lee of The Vertical that if he really pushed Randle he could reach his potential because of his great work ethic:
“When I saw the way that he could push the ball off of rebounds, and how strong he was, and how under control he could be at changing direction, I just thought if we really encouraged him to be a facilitating, modern power forward, he could be as good as he wants, really. Because he has a good work ethic, is a great teammate.”
Walton also spoke about how Randle is not only open to being pushed but encourages Walton to do so:
“I told him, ‘If you don’t want that, if you don’t want to be that player and you’re messing up and not doing things right and hard enough and you don’t want me to tell you, then I won’t tell you.’ He said, ‘No, coach. That’s not what I want. ’ He said, ‘Stay on me. Push me. Let me know.’ So we have a verbal contract with each other.”
Randle’s potential is undeniable as his combination of skills is extremely intriguing. His consistency has been an issue, and that is something that both he and Walton would like to see improve, but his willingness to take criticism and be pushed is a positive sign.
Walton has a connection with his players that was shown when he was ejected in Monday’s game against the Sacramento Kings for arguing with referees after a no-call involving Randle. The forward said he respected his coach for having his back. That kind of a relationship between player and coach is a good thing for Randle ultimately living up to his potential.