To say Julius Randle enjoyed a rollercoaster of a career with the Los Angeles Lakers would probably be putting it mildly. Randle suffered a broken leg 14 minutes into his rookie season and didn’t play again that year.
He then took a backseat to Kobe Bryant the following season as the Lakers icon went on a farewell tour. Randle solidified a starting job during the 2016-17 campaign but was relegated back to the bench the following season, leading to moments of tension with Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
Randle was also frustrated by the Lakers not offering him a contract extension prior to last season’s deadline to do so. He went into the summer a restricted free agent but asked to have his rights renounced and immediately signed with the New Orleans Pelicans upon the Lakers granting his request.
Randle would go on to call his final season with the team the most difficult of his life.
“I talk to him occasionally throughout the year. Very happy for him. He’s having a lot of success. It’s good to see. We have a very good relationship. I’ll shoot him a text if he has a big night,” Walton said ahead of the Lakers hosting the Pelicans.
“Not just Julius. I do the same with D’Angelo, Clarkson, Larry, those guys that I’ve coached. Relationship part of the coaching is big to me. Just because you don’t play with each other any more, it doesn’t mean we do stay in contact or that I’m not going to be supporting them.”
As Walton and Randle did not always see eye-to-eye, the coach never shied away from challenging the bruising forward to improve. It’s an approach Walton has taken with every current and former player he’s coached.
“I just always tried to be as honest as I can with them, and I think they respect that. I’m supportive but I’m going to be honest with what I see and think they need to work on,” Walton explained. “We’re going to push them to get better. You don’t always want to hear that but at the end of the day, I think players respect that.”
Whether Randle will get the opportunity at a revenge game is somewhat in question as he was held out Wednesday due to a sprained ankle.