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NBA Beat: Lakers’ Randle rebounds from injury with tenacity

Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle says he was told by his coach at Kentucky, John Calipari, that rebounding wasn’t about size. “I think it’s all about a mentality, especially something (Calipari) had me mentally aware of when I was in college and it’s translated to now.” ... Randle looks on during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Denver.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Julius Randle says he was told by his coach at Kentucky, John Calipari, that rebounding wasn’t about size. “I think it’s all about a mentality, especially something (Calipari) had me mentally aware of when I was in college and it’s translated to now.” ... Randle looks on during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Denver. The Associated Press

It’s said an NBA player can stick around for a while simply by finding something he does well and becoming obsessed with it.

The seeds to Julius Randle’s knack for rebounding were planted in college by coach John Calipari, who has sent many players to the NBA from Kentucky.

“Coach Cal told me (rebounding) really translated from the college game to the pro level,” Randle said. “… (Size) doesn’t really matter. I think it’s all about a mentality, especially something Cal had me mentally aware of when I was in college and it’s translated to now.”

Randle has proven a consistent rebounder in his second season, which is more like his first because a broken leg ended his rookie campaign after 14 minutes.

The 6-foot-9 power forward averages 10.1 rebounds, 10th in the league, in 27.7 minutes. Randle’s 29 double doubles through Friday led all second-year players and ranked 15th in the NBA.

Only Miami’s Hassan Whiteside joins him as a top-10 rebounder who plays less than 30 minutes per game.

“He’s just got a nose for the ball,” said Lakers coach Byron Scott. “He’s one of those guys, if he plays 25 minutes or more he’s probably going to get a double double. He’s just got that knack to be able to chase balls down, to know where it’s coming off the rim. He’s quick enough, strong enough and big enough to get to it. He’s been able to do it on a consistent basis for us.”

With Kobe Bryant’s retirement looming, the Lakers needed to know what they had in Randle.

At Kentucky, he carried the Wildcats to an NCAA championship game appearance before the Lakers picked him seventh overall in the 2014 NBA draft.

The Lakers entered the 2014-15 season with low expectations, but Randle’s development would be a point of intrigue – until he was injured in his debut.

The Lakers treated Randle’s return cautiously, limiting his minutes in summer league and gradually increasing his workload leading up to this season.

“It honestly feels like my first year,” Randle said. “There’s really no greater teacher than true experience. That’s kind of what I’ve gotten this year. Sitting out last year I was still able to learn a lot, it was very valuable to sit and watch. But to be able to have that actual experience has been good.”

Randle’s offense has slowly progressed. After struggling with his shot early, Randle’s shooting percentage has improved; he’s shooting 45.9 percent since the All-Star break, up from 41.7 percent before then.

“It’s just understanding the game and choosing your spots when you can go and using my gifts and abilities the best way I can,” Randle said.

If anything, Randle knows how to chase rebounds. And that’s a start.

Trending up

It’s taken some time, but the Washington Wizards are starting to look like a playoff team. They just have to hope they don’t run out of time.

Entering Saturday, the Wizards had won three in a row to pull within 1 1/2 games of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. John Wall has been brilliant all season, while injuries have limited shooting guard Bradley Beal to 43 games.

If Washington can make the playoffs, woe to the top-seeded team that must face the Wizards.

Trending down

The Dallas Mavericks spent most of the season in the top eight in the Western Conference, seemingly held together with duct tape, bubble gum and the coaching of Rick Carlisle.

The Mavs lost seven of their last 10 games before Saturday to put them at No. 8 in the West, just a half-game ahead of surging Utah.

Missing the playoffs would be disappointing, but it’s what many expected from Dallas.

Last words

“No. No. No. I don’t think that should be accepted. I wouldn’t accept that if that was the case.”

New York Knicks star Carmelo Anthony to the media when asked about the idea of team president Phil Jackson coaching home games next season while Kurt Rambis coached road games.

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at sacbee.com/kings.

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