Ex-Cats

Julius Randle struggling to adjust to coming off the bench for Lakers

The Houston Rockets’ Marcus Thornton, left, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Julius Randle battled for possession in the second half Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Houston.
The Houston Rockets’ Marcus Thornton, left, and the Los Angeles Lakers’ Julius Randle battled for possession in the second half Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Houston. Associated Press

Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell were not excited to lose their starting jobs, Randle in particular unable to hide his feelings by saying very little.

“It is what it is,” he kept repeating to reporters when Coach Byron Scott made the decision three games ago to drop them to reserve status.

The former University of Kentucky star wouldn’t be very happy if he looked in-depth at his stats the last two games since the demotion. It’s a small sample size, but he missed 15 of 20 shots and averaged only 5.5 points.

“Keep attacking,” said a subdued Randle after going 3-for-11 Saturday in the Lakers’ 126-97 loss to Houston. “Even though the shots aren’t (getting) made so many times, I’m not really worried about it. They’re just not going in right now.”

It wasn’t long before he was asked about his new role. It’s safe to say he feels as if he’s going through an adjustment period. He obviously misses being a starter.

“You sit nine or 10 minutes, and then you get in and try to figure out the flow of the game,” he said. “Playing with a different unit and different guys, you’re just trying to get used to it. It’s a completely different feeling.”

After handing out the new job assignments, Scott said he would reevaluate everything after 10 games. Russell, coincidentally, rejoined the starters for two games and played fairly well after Jordan Clarkson was sidelined by a sprained ankle.

Randle, on the other hand, missed his first four shots against Houston before scoring on a fastbreak dunk after a nice drop-off pass by Marcelo Huertas. Then, tellingly, his shot was blocked by Terrence Jones a few possessions later.

“He just hasn’t played well the last couple of games, period. His energy hasn’t been the same,” Scott said.

Randle has 10 double-doubles, which leads all players from the 2014 draft class. If he doesn’t start scoring, he won’t be the at the top of that list for long.

Randle’s outside touch is severely lacking, his 42.6 percent accuracy way too low for a power forward who doesn’t take three-point shots. He also needs to work on using his right hand to develop counter moves in the post.

Despite all the missed shots, Scott seemed to have a bigger problem with Randle’s defense.

“He’s just not ready to guard,” Scott said. “He kind of waits until the guy catches the ball and then he wants to guard. It’s the old saying, you’ve got to do your work early.

“I was taught in high school, if you don’t want your guy to score, don’t let him catch it. Sometimes our guys wait and let him catch it and then they want to guard him. That’s not the way to play. Not in this league.”

Randle, to his credit, seemed amenable to improving. His work ethic is near the top on the team.

“That’s something I’ll go on the film and look at. It’s hard to tell when you’re in the game,” he said.

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