Lakers welcome Julius Randle
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Julius Randle sat at his introductory news conference Monday with a row of Larry O'Brien trophies lined up in a window in team president Jeanie Buss' office overlooking the Los Angeles Lakers' practice court below. As the championship hardware hovered above him, Randle stated his intention to add to that collection as he embarks on his career with the purple and gold.
"Win a lot of championships and reach my full potential," Randle said when asked to list the goals he has upon entering the league.
The Lakers waited more than 30 years since drafting a player as high in the draft as they did when they selected Randle No. 7 on Thursday, their highest pick since James Worthy went No. 1 in 1982. After all that time, the Lakers had to wait a little longer on Monday before welcoming Randle to L.A., as the 19-year old's press conference started close to 30 minutes late because he underwent a rash of physical examinations in the morning that took longer than expected.
The Lakers are paying extra attention to Randle's right foot. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward broke the fifth metatarsal, located on the outside of his foot, during his senior year of high school and had to have a pin placed inside his foot at the time. There was speculation in the weeks leading up to the draft that Randle would require an additional surgical procedure to adjust the placement of the pin, but so far, the Lakers are saying Randle is just fine.
"We're just going to continue with the physical process and we'll probably know more," said Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, adding that Randle will continue to undergo medical tests this week. "But right now, based on his performance and his play last year through a full schedule, we don't expect anything different to come up."
It was more good news on a cheery day for Randle, who was handed his new No. 30 Lakers uniform by vice president of player personnel Jim Buss at the start of the press conference.
"Congratulations," Buss told Randle. "Welcome to the family."
Randle had an actual member of his family sitting in the front row at the new conference: his mother, Carolyn Kyles. She just so happens to be the inspiration behind his uniform number, having worn it during her collegiate days at the University of Texas at Arlington.
"Just growing up, I got a quick story," Randle said with a smile as he locked eyes with Kyles, who was situated in front of him next to Randle's mentor and youth basketball coach, Jeff Webster. "I don't know what number I was wearing. It was some ugly number or whatever. I just kind of got the number that they gave me. But I went to my mom and I think I was playing on a different team.
"I was like, 'Mom, can I wear your number?' I was like, 'What number were you?' She was like, '30.' I was like, 'Can I wear it?' She was like, 'If you're going to wear it, you got to do something with it.' So, I'm playing for the Lakers; I guess I did something."
The Lakers, who have anywhere from seven to nine open roster spots on the team to fill for next season as free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. ET on Tuesday, hope that Randle can do a lot of things for them.
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"He's younger than most players that come into the NBA, but he competes and he plays physical," said Kupchak. "He's going to get minutes, not only because we need players but also because he's going to earn them. That's what he did at Kentucky. So, there will be an adjustment period but he'll fit right in and I think he'll fit in quickly."
The Lakers were dead last in the league in rebounding differential last season, getting beat on the boards by 8.0 rebounds per game. Randle can't make up for that margin all alone, but his 10.0 rebounds per game average at Kentucky is certainly a sign that he can help close the gap.
"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."
If given medical clearance, Randle said he hopes to play for the Lakers' summer league team in Las Vegas beginning July 11. Members of the summer league squad -- including Jordan Clarkson, the second rounder the Lakers acquired from the Washington Wizards on draft night -- will begin practicing next Monday in L.A.
And eventually, as training camp nears, Randle will get the chance to practice with Kobe Bryant, whom he idolized as a child.
"I've been warned," Randle said with a smile when asked about playing with Bryant. "I've been warned and told he can push his teammates ... I'm excited about the opportunity to be able to learn from him."
Just like the Lakers learned Randle was their man from a predraft workout in which Randle played a raucus game of 2-on-2 with assistant coaches Mark Madsen, Larry Lewis and video coordinator and player development coach J.J. Outlaw. The workout has already become the stuff of Laker legend and prompted Randle and his agent to cancel his workout with the Sacramento Kings, who were drafting No. 8, believing there was no way he would slip past the Lakers if he was still on the board.
"I have to say that I've always been fortunate enough and blessed to have the right people in my life," Randle said. "Which is why I feel like this organization is such a great fit for me because I feel like the right people are in my life again."