NEW YORK — The Lakers selected Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, and at first glance, it appears to be a great fit for both sides.
But that’s only if Randle’s reported foot issue turns out to be a bigger deal than it seems.
There were rumors of surgery being necessary, which Randle himself quickly shot down, and continued to rebuff in the weeks leading up to the draft. He even said he believed the story was planted by a team hoping it might cause him to slip a few spots, but it didn’t end up hurting him, as he was projected all along to go in the range where he was ultimately selected.
The match with Los Angeles seems to be a solid one, with Randle admitting to being a huge Kobe Bryant and Lakers fan, and with the team needing a long-term, low post solution that proved capable of scoring and rebounding with the best of them while playing at the college level.
But Bryant has a reputation for not even talking to rookies when they first arrive, much less mentoring them from day one. Nevertheless, Randle hopes to be enough of a pest to get some pointers from one of the greatest of all time.
“I’m going to learn a lot,” Randle said. “[Kobe] may get tired of me because I’m going to be bugging him trying to learn stuff from him. But I think it’s more than him. He was blessed to be in an organization like the Lakers, as well. Talent alone, his work ethic alone got him there, but I think the Lakers was the right fit, the right organization for me to go to.”
When it was pointed out how demanding Bryant can be of his teammates, Randle said he understood — because he was that way with teammates of his own.
“I demand a lot from my teammates as well,” Randle said. “Holding each other accountable, putting extra work in was what I had to do at Kentucky. It was what I demanded of my teammates, and that’s what we did, and that’s why we were successful.”
Randle had more of a chip on his shoulder during Wednesday’s media availability, especially where his foot issue was concerned. When he was asked whether or not his draft stock would be affected by the apparently incorrect report, he responded coldly.
“If you were a GM, would you think I was hurt?”
He was in much better spirits on Thursday, though, after landing with Los Angeles.
“We’re just ecstatic,” Randle said. “All the hard work that’s been put in, and for this to finally happen, what can I really say. I’m blessed to be in an organization like this. Really just speechless, honestly.”