LA Lakers season off to disastrous start: Rookie Julius Randle likely out for season after blowout loss to Rockets

October 29, 2014

Julius Randle / Photo: NBA Media
The Los Angeles Lakers 2014-2015 season has started off sour and gone downhill quickly from there.  Just a few days after learning that Steve Nash would be lost for the year, the team opened up Tuesday at home against Dwight Howard, James Harden, and the Houston Rockets.

The game was never really competitive, as the Lakers fell behind by 12 at the end of the first quarter, and trailed by 17 at the half.  After a brief rally in the third, the Lakers were routed, 108-90.

To add injury to insult, prized rookie forward Julius Randle sustained a major leg injury while playing during garbage time late in the fourth quarter.

Randle, the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, was driving to the basket and in the process of elevating, injured himself and fell to the floor.  He remained there for several minutes as medical personnel stabilized his leg in a cast, and wheeled him off on a stretcher.

Randle was diagnosed with a fractured tibia of his right leg, and underwent surgery today.  The surgery was performed by Dr. Donald Wiss at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and was deemed a success.

The injury has cast a pall over the franchise.

In a statement issued by the team today, the Lakers announced that "Randle is expected to make a full recovery, although it is anticipated that he will miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season."

In Summer League and the preseason, Randle showed an impressive face-up game for a big man, as he regularly was able to beat defenders off the dribble with his ballhandling and quick first step.

Although Randle was just 19 and likely would have had his bouts of rookie inconsistency, he was also expected to be a rotation regular who could crash the glass and provide some occasional offensive punch off the bench.

He symbolized the team's future in many ways, and now has essentially lost a year in which he could have refined his game and played big minutes.

In a season in which struggles were anticipated and playoffs were a longshot, watching Randle's development was one of the primary reasons to tune into the games. 

Without him, fans are left with a minimally talented, and somewhat dull roster.  

Kobe Bryant put up 19 points in just 29 minutes last night, showing that the post-Achilles version of the Mamba can still score and get to the free throw line.  However, he also did not have the most efficient evening, shooting just 6-17.

Such a performance failed to justify his league-high salary taking up so much of the Lakers' cap space, but at least he showed some much-needed fight and tenacity, at one point jawing with former teammate Dwight Howard and calling him "soft."

Newcomer Carlos Boozer put up decent numbers (17 points, 7 boards), but will now need to be much more active with Randle out of the picture.  That should include initiating the offense at times through him with post touches, in addition to any pick-and-pop plays.

Ed Davis also did well in a reserve role with an 11-point, 6-rebound, and 2-block night.

But for the most part the lack of talent was obvious.

Xavier Henry looked rusty, to put it kindly.  Jeremy Lin -- who will need to produce if the Lakers have any hope of being competitive -- struggled with early foul trouble, and finished with a sub-par 7-point, 4-turnover game.  Sixth Man Nick Young was in street clothes.  The team also continued its deficient rebounding trend from last season, getting beaten on the glass by 47-36 margin.

A few weeks ago, GM Mitch Kupchak laughably claimed that the Lakers could contend for a championship.  It was pure propaganda at the time, even before Randle and Nash were lost for the season.  In truth, their absences, and Young's temporary loss as well, cannot be used as excuses for the team's projected poor performance this year because all three are mere role players.

A more valid reason for missing the playoffs would be management's inability to lure a top free agent star this offseason.

Nevertheless, Laker fans can at least find one reason for hope -- they have the right coach for the job in Byron Scott.

Too bad he cannot suit up and play.

By Mike Elliott
Editor of

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