|Julius Randle & GM Mitch Kupchak / Photo: Oliver Petalver|
El Segundo, Calif. - The Los Angeles Lakers today introduced Julius Randle to the media. Randle was selected by the Lakers as the 7th pick of the First Round in last week's NBA Draft. He was the highest draft selection by the franchise since James Worthy was taken #1 in 1982.
Sitting beside Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, Randle expressed confidence that he might be able to contribute right away for the Lakers, the team he was a fan of as a kid.
I asked the 19-year old rookie if even his one-year career at the University of Kentucky, a major college basketball powerhouse, might help in his transition to playing for a championship franchise like the Lakers. Randle certainly believes so. "In the state of Kentucky they love Kentucky basketball, they live and die by it...and its the same thing with LA. They love the Lakers and they expect nothing less but championships."
|Julius Randle / Photo by Oliver Petalver|
Randle indicated he had no new information about his foot or whether he would need surgery before the start of the season. However, he did express confidence that he would play in the summer league assuming things went as expected.
Mostly Randle spoke in generalities, emphasizing his desire to compete and his willingness to work hard to get better, but when I asked him whether his game compared to Zach Randolph or any other player he laudably did not shy away from the question.
"I watched guys growing up and maybe saw things from their game that I liked, but I was always was my own person and tried to work on my overall skills," said Randle. "As far as the thing with Zach, you know, Coach Cal showed me a lot of him later in the season and I see some comparisons there."
Nonetheless, Randolph was humble."I have a long way to go...he's a great player to model and look at certain parts of his game for sure.
When asked about playing alongside the ultra competitive Kobe Bryant, Randle drew laughs from the reporters when he said, "I've been warned." He also revealed that he wore the #30 in honor of his mother, a former college basketball player.
For his part GM Mitch Kupchak's answers seemed to reflect a desire to temper any unfair expectations for Randle in his rookie season. Nonetheless, Kupchak was quite candid in flatly declaring that Randle was "going to get minutes" with the Lakers, and barring health problems, who can imagine otherwise? Randle was a force on the boards in his one season at Kentucky and the Lakers were the worst rebounding team in the NBA with a -8.0 rebounding differential against opponents.
|Julius Randle is introduced to the media / Photo: Oliver Petalver|
Noting this ugly reality, I asked Kupchak whether the organization was specifically looking to draft a player like Randle to help on the boards.
"For a freshman, we don't talk about statistics very often, but for a freshman at that kind of level of competition, to be able to average about 10 rebounds per game in that kind of program and that kind of conference, that's impressive," Kupchak said. "So he can rebound the ball, but he can do a lot of things. Once again, first and foremost, he's going to compete and work."
Overall Randle seemed fairly comfortable talking to the press and at ease even as he discussed how the last two weeks had been "a whirlwind" for him.
"I have to say that I've always been fortunate enough and blessed to have the right people in my life...this organization is such a great fit for me because I feel the right people are in my life again."
By Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com