The Los Angeles Lakers have been on something of a roller coaster at the start of the 2017-2018 NBA season, and the same could be said of Julius Randle. The bruising big man had been the Lakers’ starting power forward for the last two seasons but has seen Larry Nance Jr. take over that spot this year.
For Randle, the timing couldn’t have been worse. With his rookie contract expiring at the end of the season, the value of his next contract will largely depend on his play this year. He spent the summer getting into the best shape of his life so that he would be prepared for major minutes in the most important season of his career.
Instead, he was relegated to the bench, and his frustration was clear in his body language and play during the Lakers first two games of the new season. Randle spoke to Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times about dealing with the situation:
“It’s just the frustration of just trying to figure out what you gotta do to be out there helping,” Randle told The Times. “Obviously every player they feel like they give their team the best chance to win. That’s all it was. Just wanting to be out there and help us win games.”
Fortunately, Randle was able to turn things around during the team’s four most recent games, including playing a major role in picking up a big win over the Washington Wizards.
He is still coming off the bench with Nance starting, but Randle is picking up the majority of his minutes as the team’s reserve center, and the physical improvements that he made during the summer have allowed him to become a much better rim protector.
It’s still early, but the hope is that Randle’s attitude is now back on track and that he will show renewed focus for the remainder of the season. If he can continue playing at his current level, not only will he be an asset for the team this season, but he should find a nice new contract next summer.