Julius Randle signs rookie contract, makes Summer League debut for Lakers

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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.”

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.

Just a reminder: Spurs hope to repair relationship with Kawhi Leonard, offer-him $219 million

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It’s everyone’s favorite parlor game around the NBA: Where will Kawhi Leonard play next season? Philadelphia? Los Angeles? Somewhere else? Fans of 29 teams are posting their trade scenarios online, while GMs of 29 teams privately have tried to come up with offers that could tempt San Antonio.

The most likely answer: San Antonio.

While the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs is frayed — and with the people close to Leonard and in his ear seemingly trying to push him out the door — the Spurs would rather keep one of the five best players in the NBA (when healthy) in-house. From Tom Osbourne of the San Antonio Express-News.

Still, the Spurs hope to meet with Leonard and his representatives soon in a bid to mend fences and pave the way for Leonard to come to terms on a five-year $219 million supermax contract that he will be eligible to receive starting July 1. If attempts to patch up the relationship fail, the Spurs will be forced to explore trading a player coach Gregg Popovich once labeled “the future face of the franchise.”

The timing of that meeting has been slowed in part because of the death of Popovich’s wife and everyone involved understandably giving him all the space wants. It will happen.

Can the relationship be salvaged? Maybe, $219 million can mend a lot of fences. There are things the Spurs can and would be willing to do to promote Leonard more (although that all starts with him getting out of his comfort zone and building his brand, starting with speaking more in public). Also, Gregg Popovich was able to sooth LaMarcus Aldridge‘s ego when the big man demanded a trade, and not only did the player stay he had an All-NBA level season. Popovich and Leonard still have a strong relationship.

Is that enough? Time will tell, but people around the league think at best it’s a coin flip. Things are not good right now. However, the Spurs will get the first crack at fixing this before they are forced to consider a trade.

Julius Randle’s camp not convinced he’s a Laker priority

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Last November, Julius Randle walked into Staples Center wearing a sweatshirt that said: “pay me.”

Yet he and the Lakers could not come to terms on a rookie contract extension — the Lakers could have had him starting at $12.4 million a year, but wanted to keep their cap space and options open. Now, it’s going to cost a lot more to keep the restricted free agent who averaged 16.1 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting with eight rebounds a game. There are rumors that the previous contract negotiations left a bad taste in Randle’s mouth and he wants out.

Lakers’ fans want Randle back. The Lakers still have rights to match any offer and the front office has said Randle is a priority. Randle’s camp is not so sure about that last part, they haven’t seen the evidence, reports Tania Ganguli at The Los Angeles Times.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka told The Times on Friday that the Lakers’ front office is constantly in touch with Julius Randle’s representatives, and there has been “a mutual exchange of interest and hoping that we can work something out for both sides.”

Randle’s camp is unsure of how mutual the interest has been.

“We still have no indication of where Julius stands among the Lakers’ priorities, or if he is a priority at all,” Randle’s agent Aaron Mintz said Saturday in response to Pelinka’s comments. “We are looking forward to the marketplace in July, when we will get a clear picture of Julius’ future.”

That is negotiation posturing by Mintz, no doubt. He might as well have said, “show me the money.”

Don’t expect other teams to wait around on Randle offers while the Lakers figure out their free agent possibilities — Paul George, LeBron James (probably not him) — come July 1. Other teams are interested (Dallas among them) and are going to try to move quickly to force the Lakers’ hand.

Once those other offers are on the table, we’ll see where the Lakers’ priorities really are.