When the Los Angeles Lakers began their season, they did so with an edict from head coach Luke Walton to give the ball to Lonzo Ball after every rebound, regardless of how players like Julius Randle had been given the freedom to push after misses in the past.
Recently that’s changed, with Randle pushing the ball in transition like he had his whole career before this season, something Walton says was always the plan. “Early in the season, we wanted to simplify what we were doing. If you were a big man, get it to the guard,” Walton explained.
“We’ve always had the idea that’s one of Julius’ strengths, so we knew we were going to let the leash off a little bit as we went on. [But] it’s still important for him to recognize when he has that push, and if it’s not there, to give it up quickly and run into a drag or get down the court.
“When he grabs a rebound we still want him turning and looking. If he’s got a lane ahead of him, then go. If not, we still want him to give the ball up to one of the guards.”
The change fully took place at the same time Randle joined the Lakers starters. While the team is playing slightly slower with Randle on the floor over the course of the season, since he was unleashed to play more quickly seven games ago, the Lakers are averaging over three more possessions per 48 minutes with Randle on the floor.
They play at their second-fastest pace when Randle plays, and its second-slowest when he sits since becoming a starter. It’s not the only way Randle’s game has been forced to change since entering the starting lineup.
“We’re asking him to do much more in the starting unit. We’re asking him to sacrifice more to the team. When he was the backup center, his role was to switch everything, get stops for us, rebound and push the pace and score,” Walton said.
“Now we need him defensively, covering up for people, we need him knowing all the schemes, we need him offensively moving the ball more. So his role in the starting position has expanded on both ends of the court.”
Walton has been impressed with what he’s seen from Randle in that role so far, calling Randle one of the best big men in the entire NBA at “guarding every position.”
While Randle’s future with the Lakers is far from certain, he’s certainly making an impact on the team while he’s still wearing their uniform.
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