After failing to agree on a contract extension prior to the deadline this season, the outlook for Julius Randle and the Los Angeles Lakers was muddied. The situation further became convoluted when he and head coach Luke Walton bumped heads over a role for Randle.
It was not until Dec. 29, the Lakers’ 34th game of the season, that Randle started. He finished with 49 starts in 82 games played. Randle and Walton not only found common ground, their relationship became a strong bond.
But how long that may last with the Lakers still isn’t certain as Randle is set to become a restricted free agent come July 1. According to Tania Ganguli of the L.A. Times, the Lakers and Randle have not held serious contract talks:
While the Lakers have not begun hard negotiations with Randle, they have kept the line of communication open with his representatives.
During his exit interview in April, the 23-year-old expressed a strong desire to re-sign with the Lakers, the only franchise he’s known since being selected seventh overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. It’s a sentiment Walton also voiced, as he said he would ‘love’ for the burly forward to remain with the organization.
More recently, Randle said he would look to sign with a team that is in position to be competitive and reach the playoffs next season. The Lakers do appear to fit that bill, with a young core that showed plenty of promise.
Of course, president of basketball operations Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have not shied away from an expected pursuit of superstar free agents. They aren’t able to publicly name players, but LeBron James and Paul George are widely believed to be atop the Lakers’ wish list.
L.A. could sign one max-contract free agent and still have enough salary cap space to re-sign Randle. But if they were to sign James and George, Randle would be the odd man out barring any other transactions to free up cap space.