Los Angeles Lakers sophomore Julius Randle garnered some attention before the NBA regular season even began, when he was caught talking smack to none other than Draymond Green in their preseason matchup against the reigning champs, the Golden State Warriors.
That’s right, about a dozen total regular season NBA minutes (Randle played just 14 minutes before breaking his leg in his rookie debut) and a handful of preseason games was all it took for a 20-year-old Julius Randle to yell out ‘You can’t guard me!’ to the NBA’s runner-up Defensive Player of the Year.
Funny part is, Green hadn’t even heard it during the game, but his Twitter account fixed that pretty quick.
“My Twitter was blowing up,” Green laughed. “I saw the video, and I’m like ‘Okay I’m at you next time I go against you!’”
In the next breath, Green gave Randle props: “But it’s good just to see that heart and that dog, I love that.”
And battle they did, five days later, when they met in Anaheim for their second preseason game, and the Warriors served up a 136-97 wakeup call at Honda Center.
Since then, the two have been exchanging texts back and forth, mostly about little things concerning the game and how to make the game easier, especially as an undersized power forward. Randle (6’9,” 250 pounds) has a couple inches and pounds on Green (6’7,” 230 pounds), but still Green considers them in very similar roles and has offered up some guidance for the recently turned 21-year-old looking to make his mark.
“I talked to him (Julius Randle) about it (being an undersized power forward) last time I saw him, to just try to pick up a few things here and there that will make the game much easier for him,” Green said in an interview with LakersNation.com. “There’s a few things that I’ve learned over the course of the last couple of years that make the game a lot easier for you and once the game starts to come easier for you, everything it just starts to flow.”
Green explained how he looked at being undersized as an advantage, which is something he’s trying to convey to Randle, and that one of his biggest challenges will be simply finding his rhythym.
“I think once he gets in that rhythm, a real rhythm, I think he’s really going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Green said of Randle.
“He’s a great role model for me,” Randle said of Green. “A great guy to look at, as far as what he does and how important he is to their team.”
Randle is far from the only one who recognizes Green’s impact on a Warriors team who beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s NBA Finals. Lakers head coach Byron Scott said is also a fan, especially after getting to know him while they were both in the Bahamas over the summer.
“I’ll tell you what, Draymond Green is one of my favorite players. He’s a great leader, very humble kid,” Scott said. “I told him this last year, I think he’s the heart and soul of that team. He’s just one of those guys that’s like the Swiss Army Knife. He does a little bit of everything, but he seems to do them all pretty well and that’s what makes him such a great basketball player.”
Being a fan of the game, Randle’s development has been exciting for Green to watch, referring to him as a “special talent” who has the potential to make the game even better. Randle’s got the most important part down, and that’s the passion for the game.
“You can tell he’s a guy who works, so I know the sky’s the limit for him,” Green told LakersNation.com. “I think a lot of people in this day and age, don’t have just that love, that will, and that drive that continues to push them and you can just see that in him and his game and the way the he plays.”
“I think with the tools that he has, the heart that he has, the emotion that he has about the game. I think he can be a very, very special player.”
Randle showed some of those emotions recently when he voiced frustrations about playing time, coupled with feelings of being unfairly singled out by Scott. The two have since moved on, but Green suggests that managing those emotions of a young player can be a delicate balance.
“He’s got a chip on his shoulder,” Green said about Randle. “And, you have to be very careful not to take that chip away, because it’s what made him his entire life. It’s the reason he’s here. It’s the reason he’s the player he is.”
Green knows what it’s like to have a chip on his shoulder. Unlike Randle, who was drafted with the seventh pick in the 2015 NBA Draft after just one season at the University of Kentucky, the four-year Michigan State forward fell to No. 35 in the second-round.
Green knows first-hand, the pressures of feeling like you have to prove yourself in this league.
“You can get all of the advice someone can give you, but some of that stuff just comes with playing. The more you play, the more comfortable you get, the more secure you get. A lot of it, and I can speak from experience, a lot of it, is just kind of an insecurity that, ‘I’m trying to make my name. I want people to take me serious, I want people to know what I’m about.’”
Despite some recent struggles, Randle is already on his way to making a name for himself. Even with his latest role off the bench, Randle is still leading sophomores in rebounding and stands tied for eighth overall in NBA total rebounds (334). He stands fifth in the NBA in defensive rebounding percentage (29.5), and 19 of his games have been 10+ rebounding nights, including 13 double-doubles.
Randle still has a long ways to go, but with plans to work out with Green this summer, the potential could be great for the Lakers future forward.