When Los Angeles Lakers starting center Brook Lopez went down with an ankle injury almost two weeks ago, it was expected that the minutes of players like Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. would increase. That hasn’t quite been the case, however, especially for Randle.
The fourth-year forward actually saw his minutes go down, most noticeably in the Lakers’ loss on Wednesday night when Randle played just 11 minutes. So it came as a bit of a surprise to see him in the starting lineup of Friday night’s contest with the L.A. Clippers.
“We’ve been losing games, and Julius has been great for us this whole season, so wanted to give him a chance in there,” head coach Luke Walton said following the Lakers’ 121-106 loss. “If we had won five out of six, we probably would’ve kept it how it is.”
Walton may have had a simple reason why he chose to start Randle, but it paid off as Randle finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Overall, Walton was pleased with his performance.
“I thought he played hard tonight, I thought he had a nice game,” Walton said, noting there was a domino effect in mind. “We wanted to get Jordan back in that second group to give them a little bit of their chemistry back.”
For his part, Randle remains focused simply on the things that are in his hands. “I just tried to stay locked in. Control what I can control, just play hard and do the most with the time I’ve got.”
Randle’s 29 minutes were the most he’s played since Lopez went down and the third-most he’s played in the month of December. Walton previously explained the reasons for Randle’s minutes fluctuation is at times based on effort, but the former seventh overall pick definitely answered the call on Friday.
As the Lakers continue to try and turn things around, Randle’s play and energy could be a catalyst. For the time being, all eyes will continue to be on his minutes every night.
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