One of the many engaging storylines from the Los Angeles Lakers season opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night involved the 21-year NBA veteran Kevin Garnett trash-talking with 20-year-old Julius Randle. A couple of personal fouls, and even a technical on Garnett, plenty of pushing and shoving, some noticed, and some flying under the radar with the referees.
The result? Basketball fans entertained and yet another example that Randle isn’t backing down from anybody.
Ultimately, as Randle would say after the game, Garnett won the battle, since the Timberwolves came back from a 16-point deficit to take the win on the Lakers home court, but Randle’s aggressiveness didn’t go unnoticed from his teammates or his head coach.
“It was great,” Kobe Bryant smiled after Thursday’s practice. “I knew they were going to get into it before the game even started. I know KG (Kevin Garnett) and KG loves to test the young guys, he loves to do that, just to see what they’re made of, so I knew they were going to get into it.”
How did Randle respond?
“Responded like Julius Randle. He responded like a grown a– man. I think KG has a lot of respect for him because of it,” Bryant said of Randle not backing down.
After the game, Randle said he welcomed Garnett’s trash-talk, used it to “get him going,” but also that his confidence level is the same no matter his opponent.
“It doesn’t scare me. I’m not scared of anybody,” Randle said of Garnett’s trash-talk. “The main thing is we know that’s his thing, that’s what I’ve been watching him do all my life so I knew what to expect.”
Randle’s aggression shouldn’t come as any surprise. His physicality has been talked about all summer long, from Metta World Peace praising his strength during summer workouts at the facility, to words like “beast” and “ox” being thrown around to describe him in NBA Summer League.
“I don’t think people really mess with him in practice on our team,” Clarkson said after describing a couple of summer pick-up games, where Randle got the best of anyone who challenged him. “Julius ain’t backing down from nobody. I wasn’t surprised when they (Garnett and Randle) got into their little talking battle. I knew Julius wasn’t backing down. He got that dog in him.”
Head coach Byron Scott said he’s been seeing this physicality from Randle all throughout training camp and the preseason, but he also cautions Randle on when to not let the aggression get the best of him.
“I like that aggressiveness that he had last night,” Scott said referring to Randle battling with Kevin Garnett. “I think he also has to learn to kind of temper it down at times. I think KG did a good job of kinda baiting him into a couple of things, I think that’s what guys that played 20+ years can do. I do like the fact that Julius doesn’t back down.”
As Kobe would tell you, building a reputation in this business, is just another asset to success.
“He’s laying the foundation,” Bryant said of Randle. “He wants to build his reputation around the league and he’s certainly doing that. He’s not intimidated by anybody.”
“All these guys get a reputation the first couple of years. Hopefully his will be one of those fearless, tough, competitive, physical type guys that still has a lot of finesse to his game as well.”
The Lakers have a long way to go through their rebuilding process, but drafting Randle with their seventh pick in 2014, is looking pretty good right about now.