Randle: Give players 'free choice'

Updated: June 17, 2014, 8:37 PM ET
By Dave McMenamin | ESPNLosAngeles.com

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Julius Randle won't have to wait much longer before becoming a likely lottery pick in the NBA draft next week. However, if commissioner Adam Silver has his way in the future, one-and-done prospects like the big man out of Kentucky wouldn't be eligible to go pro for another year.

Randle, who averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in his freshman season while leading the Wildcats to the NCAA title game, does not believe a proposal to change the age minimum from 19 to 20 for players entering the NBA draft is in the best interests of players like him.

[+] EnlargeJulius Randle
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesDraft prospect Julius Randle believes players should be permitted to enter the draft when it is right for them -- whenever that may be.

"I think everybody should have free choice, whether it's [going to the NBA after] high school, college, four years of college," Randle said after his pre-draft workout with the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday. "Who is going to tell the kid when he's ready? So I think everybody should have a free choice, but I know the commissioner and he's done a great job so far, and I think he'll do what's best for the league."

Silver announced his desire to raise the league's minimum age during All-Star Weekend in February. He has continued to stump for the change, bringing up the issue during news conferences at the NBA draft lottery last month and again while speaking to reporters before Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

For the change to be made, it has to be agreed upon by the players' association. That negotiation has yet to occur because the NBPA has been operating without an executive director since Billy Hunter was removed from his post in February 2013.

"I sense there is a little bit of movement," Silver said when asked about the potential rule change during the Finals. "Ron Klempner, who is the interim executive director of the union, said at a sports law forum recently that it was something that the union was willing to discuss, and certainly in individual, one-on-one conversations I have had with players as I travel around the league, my sense is that they're willing to discuss it as well. The ongoing issue is that until we have a new executive director of the union, we're not going to sit down and have any real serious discussions on the issue."

The league's collective bargaining agreement, which includes the current minimum of 19 years old or one year removed from high school graduation, is set to expire after the 2020-21 season. However, both sides hold the ability to opt out of the CBA after the 2016-17 season and seek a renegotiation.

Randle said he did not plan on attending Kentucky for only one year before making the jump to the pros. However, the opportunity was too good to pass up, he said.

"My biggest thing was I wanted to be a college student and enjoy college," Randle said. "I loved Kentucky. Of course, you're going to love the basketball, but just the state, the people, my academics. I loved it. I miss it, of course, seeing everybody go back to school, and I just kind of miss that brotherhood that I had with those guys. But I knew that the next step was what's best for me and my family."

The Lakers have the No. 7 pick in the draft. They previously had a group workout including a couple of other freshman phenoms -- Arizona's Aaron Gordon and Indiana's Noah Vonleh.

After Randle's solo workout, he was asked to compare himself to Gordon, Vonleh and Kansas' Joel Embiid, another big man considered a lock to be drafted in the lottery.

"I feel like I'm the best one," Randle said. "I don't put myself second to anybody. That's my attitude on the floor, my attitude when I compete. That's just how I was raised to be."

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