Drama always has a way of tiptoeing into the Los Angeles Lakers’ backdrop, whether they’re seeking four consecutive championships or, in these sadder days, four victories in a row.
Even though the Golden State Warriors are coming to town Tuesday for a true reality check, there was more interest Monday in the prickly relationship between Lakers Coach Byron Scott and and former University of Kentucky star Julius Randle.
The 21-year-old reserve power forward did not like being mentioned by Scott for playing poor defense after the Lakers’ 97-77 victory Sunday against the Phoenix Suns.
“I don’t think there was defense on the court at all in the fourth quarter and he singled me out. I think it was a team thing,” said Randle, who didn’t speak to reporters after Sunday’s game but was available Monday after practice.
Randle also disliked being taken out of the game by Scott.
“Fifteen minutes,” he said, referring to his approximate total playing time. “I was frustrated I wasn’t on the court. Simple.”
His official playing time was 15 minutes and 57 seconds, during which he scored two points and missed all four of his shots from the field. His stats weren’t poor enough to be removed, he suggested.
“It wasn’t like I was 0-for-25 or something. I took four shots. Still had 12 rebounds, still had three assists,” Randle said.
Randle was irritated on the court in the fourth quarter of a rare Lakers blowout victory, yelling at reserve point guard Marcelo Huertas to pass him the ball. Randle was trying to post up Phoenix guard Ronnie Price but was near the free-throw line, not down low.
The way Randle acted in the game and also afterward by ditching reporters was not condoned by Lakers officials.
“He’s got to grow up. Simple as that,” Scott said. “I think the main thing I don’t like is when you take him out of games, how he reacts sometimes. I chalk it up to immaturity and just being inexperienced in this level. It’s going to happen again. I’m going to take him out of other games that he’s not going to like.”
Some of this could be big-picture frustration coming out sideways. Randle has lost ground in trying to recapture his starting job because rookie Larry Nance Jr. has been a pleasant surprise since replacing him in the opening lineup four weeks ago.
Nance is one of the friendliest players on the team. There’s no rivalry there. But maybe Randle is feeling the pinch of reduced minutes.
Nance was the 27th overall pick in the 2015 draft while Randle was drafted seventh in 2014.
“That’s almost asking if he’s jealous of Larry. I don’t think so,” Scott said. “The one thing about Julius that I do know is that he wants this bad. He wants to perform. He wants to play well.
“Sometimes you want that too bad. You’ve got to relax and just kind of let the game come to you. But again, he’s 21 years old. He’s young. He’s going to go through these type of things. As a coach, I’m going to let him go through it. I said my peace last night and I’m going to let him go through it.”
Randle’s stats are almost the same whether he starts or comes off the bench.
He is averaging 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds as a starter, 10.8 and 10.1 as a reserve. The main difference is in his accuracy — he makes 43.3 percent of his shots when starting and 38.9 percent off the bench. Both figures are substandard for a power forward operating close to the basket.
If Randle needed to be apologetic to Scott, he wasn’t.
“Basketball is an emotional sport. I’m going to feel some type of way about it,” Randle said. “It’s not in my control (to start), but regardless, I’m going to feel frustrated or happy or whatever it may be.”