With the Los Angeles Lakers missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season, there are questions about the future of the franchise. While Kobe Bryant has denied reports that he will retire at the end of his contract, the Lakers are looking for their next superstar to carry the franchise for the next decade.
While the Lakers have a top-five protected pick in this year’s NBA Draft that will likely feature Jahlil Okafor and ample cap space, Julius Randle is preparing for Kobe to pass him the torch in an interview with Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding:
“I’m paying my dues right now, doing whatever I have to do to be ready,” Randle said. “But, of course, it’s something you think about: Who wouldn’t want to be in his position? Kob came in and paid his dues and eventually became the guy for the Lakers and someone they built around. Of course, that’s something you think of as far as what you want for this organization and winning and what you want for yourself and your team.
“That’s another thing I’ve learned from him: how he carries himself, what does he do, what’s his mindset. So when you’re put in a position or given an opportunity, you know how to be ready to approach it.”
After suffering a season-ending injury in the season opener against the Houston Rockets, Randle is currently rehabbing and preparing himself for next season. Kobe has taken the rookie under his wing and Randle has responded in hopes of the torch eventually being passed on to him.
Heading into the off-season, the Lakers are hopeful that they can bring in talent to build around Kobe and Randle. Armed a top-five protected pick, the Lakers will have cap space to pursue big-name free agents such as Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo and Goran Dragic.