LAS VEGAS — The Lakers selected Julius Randle with the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft, but due to the team trying to preserve every last dollar of its cap space in case it could convince any of the marquee free agents to come to Los Angeles, he remained unsigned, and was unable to play in Summer League until the contract issue was resolved.
That changed in a hurry on Sunday, moments before L.A. was set to take the floor for its second matchup in Las Vegas against the Pelicans.
Randle wasn’t exactly planning on playing, but things came together quickly, and he was in the Lakers starting lineup for the 1:30 p.m. local time tip-off — but not without a fair bit of scrambling to make it happen.
“I signed it like 20 minutes before the game,” Randle said. “We were on the way to the game, and I was in my polo and shorts. My agent called and he said ‘Hey, Mitch has landed. We’re signing today.’ I was like, what? I don’t even have my shoes. I had to run off the bus, go get my shoes, take a car up here to sign and then get ready to play.”
Randle was rocking a new-looking pair of gray LeBron 11 Elites with pink accents, and his game looked NBA-ready at times, in a performance that saw him finish with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, to go along with two rebounds in just over 21 minutes of action.
“That’s the first five-on-five I’ve done since the national championship game,” Randle said. “It was good to finally get out there and play, and start competing again.”
Randle showcased a high level of activity on both ends of the floor, with far less standing around on possessions than we’ve come to expect from NBA guys of his size and position. He got lost on defense at times, but the effort was evident — and on the offensive end of the floor, Randle was aggressive in attacking the basket by putting the ball on the floor, instead of settling for long jumpers outside.
“He’s been in camp paying attention from the sideline,” said Lakers coach Larry Lewis, who is sharing the Summer League sideline duties with Mark Madsen as the team continues its search to hire a new head coach. “He couldn’t go five-on-five with any contact, so I thought he showed he has some pretty impressive footwork. As a young player, banging against guys his size and even a little bigger, he handled his own. He’ll get in better shape as we go along, and I think he’s an asset. He has a good attitude; when it’s his fault, I think he accepts it. He’s a man.”
Randle would only say his performance was “decent,” but that’s to be expected in his first chance at NBA competition with minimal practice time, and with so much time off between five-on-five, live game situations. Lewis, however, was a bit more optimistic, and liked what he saw out of the team’s newly-drafted rookie prospect.
“I think he’ll get better,” Lewis said. “This is his first experience on the floor as a Laker in competition. To not have been able to be involved in camp like you’d want or expect, for that to be his first action, I don’t think we could have asked for anything better. I think he did a good job, and I only see him going up.”