LOS ANGELES — The Lakers long slog of a season just got even longer… and it’s only one game in.
Promising rookie Julius Randle, the No. 7 pick in the last draft, left the season opener on a stretcher in the fourth quarter after suffering a fractured tibia, coach Byron Scott confirmed.
He was trasported to the hospital, where surgery is likely.
“It is heartbreaking…” Scott said. “I told him to stay strong, that these tests show the true character of a man.”
Randle started his drive from the right wing and when he got in the lane he had contact with Donatas Motiejunas that seemed to take his legs out from under him a little, and when he landed he seems to have come down wrong and broken something in his right shin area. The contact wasn’t unusual for an NBA game, it seemed to catch him just right.
Randle went down and stayed down. Quickly Lakers trainer Gary Vitti was over with him. As he stayed down more and more teammates came over to be around him, especially once the stretcher came out.
The Staples Center crowd, which had been riled up minutes before when Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard exchanged words (and got technicals) fell silent.
Randle’s development was one of the few things Lakers fans could really look at as hope for the future with this roster. The Lakers were getting easily handled by the Rockets on opening night but Randle showed some flashes, particularly when paired with Ed Davis. He was the Lakers highest draft pick in decades and there were a lot of Lakers’ fans hopes pinned on him.
Which is why opening night felt like it was going to make a long season even longer.