Julius Randle’s Development Should Be Priority No. 1 for Los Angeles Lakers

Julius Randle is the only thing standing between the Los Angeles Lakers and a lost season.

The Lakers are going to make noise this year, but that’ll mainly be because they’re surrounded by more microphones than most NBA teams. The sound will signify little in terms of on-court relevance, though.

You don’t have to agree that L.A. might be the worst team in the league by season’s end, but you must concede that the playoffs feel like a long shot.

This is a stopgap period between eras. Kobe Bryant playing out two more years, short-time vets filling out the roster and Byron Scott running the show with an alarmingly old-school style ill-suited for whatever future the organization has—all signs of the holding pattern.

Because the Lakers are stuck in neutral for the time being, the only thing that should matter is the development of young players who might still be around two years from now, when they shift into drive.

That’s a short list. Randle is the only one on it.

Perplexing then, isn’t it, that Carlos Boozer is on the roster. At 6’9″ and 250 pounds, Randle is suited only for the power forward spot at this stage in his career. He’s not quick or athletic enough to guard wings, and until he flashes a reliable jumper, he must play to his strengths as an interior scorer on offense.

Yet Boozer has started ahead of Randle in every Lakers preseason game, logging 116 minutes to Randle’s 95 through five contests. This is difficult to comprehend.

Regularly pilloried for his defensive failures, Boozer is doing a heck of a job denying Randle the ball.

It takes time—years, really—to develop a prospect. So focusing on the first exhibition season of Randle’s career is shortsighted. But you’d think that if the Lakers were as focused as they should be on grooming him, Randle would be collecting as many minutes as possible in games with no consequences.

Because Randle needs reps.

A flawed but promising player, the 19-year-old Randle should be getting ample time (now, and during the season) to add to his game. Broadly speaking, he doesn’t fit the current power forward model because he can’t shoot from range and does not impact the paint on defense.

Proof: Randle made just three triples in his one season at Kentucky and averaged less than one block per contest. As his game stands now, he’s a little like Kenneth Faried with a better handle and a lower-RPM motor.

That’s not to say he can’t get better in those key areas; it’d be foolish to discount the potential for development in any 19-year-old project. It is to say, however, that Randle needs a chance to make those improvements.

He has to play.

Key figures in the Lakers organization seem aware of Randle’s importance.

Bryant has taken on a larger mentoring role than he has in the past, though the Mamba’s not-so-nurturing track record didn’t set a very high bar. He seems interested in Randle’s growth, though he expresses it in his own special way:

Scott has been rough on the rookie, though it’s an old truism that coaches are hardest on the players they believe they can push furthest:

Besides, the Lakers head coach has offered praise when warranted as well:

And Randle seems to be handling the scrutiny nicely. Either that, or he knows enough to go with the program—pressure-packed as it may be:

The Lakers must hope that attention and the tough-love treatment don’t backfire. It’s going to take years before L.A. knows what it has in Randle. And it’s hard to know whether the Lakers’ unique situation will hasten or hinder his development.

On the one hand, there’s usually value in the ample playing time and consequence-free environment of a lottery-bound team. On the other, it’s not always ideal for a prospect to form his NBA habits and identity in a losing culture.

Say what you will about the Lakers, but they have not outwardly embraced the tank.

That refusal/inability to rebuild conventionally (thanks mostly to Bryant’s contract extension) means there will be distractions aplenty this year. Scott is catching nonstop heat for antiquated offensive ideas:

And Bryant will continue to have his every word, gesture and field-goal attempt picked apart by the media.

In that sense, the Lakers will learn one thing about Randle right away: whether he can focus amid chaos.

The overall aim should be to find out much more about Randle—beyond how he responds to Kobe’s tutelage. Because, harsh as it sounds, Bryant isn’t relevant to the Lakers’ future.

Randle is.

Even though much of the criticism aimed at Bryant, Scott and the rest of the Lakers of late has been fair, it’s missed the mark. Whether pertaining to overall team construction, offensive strategies, contracts hampering progress or anything else, we’ve all been zinging L.A. from the wrong angle.

One question should color the way the Lakers view any criticism: How does it affect Randle?

The Lakers are (perhaps detrimentally) obsessed with their past, and they seem reluctant to accept the realities of the present.

They’d better do everything possible to develop the one guy on the squad who’ll be a part of their future.

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Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10/19/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Utah Jazz squared off against the Los Angeles Lakers in a preseason matchup Sunday night. 

Kobe and the Lakers find themselves in unfamiliar territory, struggling to remain relevant in the fiercely competitive Western Conference. 

The Jazz won just 25 games a season ago and will need to get in a rhythm to avoid another disastrous campaign this season. 

Watch the video for full highlights.

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Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers: Live Score, Highlights and Reaction

Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors and the Utah Jazz will get their second preseason meeting with Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers Sunday in L.A.

The Jazz won the first meeting by a final score of 119-86.

 

Tipoff: 9:30 p.m. ET

Coverage: TWC SN/Root Sports

 

Keys to the Game

The Jazz overwhelmed the Lakers with a combination of athleticism and balanced scoring in the first game. Five players reached double figures, and 10 scored at least seven. If they push the pace again, the Lakers defense is likely to look every bit as hapless.

For L.A., this preseason continues to be about how Kobe Bryant looks. He scored 27 in the first meeting against Utah, but it took 23 shots to get there. Age and injuries have clearly taken their toll, so much of this season could be about adjusting for him.

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Los Angeles Clippers season preview: Player projections

We have hit the middle of our three part preview of the 2014-2015 Los Angeles Clippers, check out the Part 1 if you have not already. The question we are faced with now is how much better can this year’s Clippers team be in this incredibly deep Western Conference. The answer to that question is going to be the function of two things. How much better did this Clippers team get over the offseason? And how much better, if any, did the top tier of the Western Conference get this offseason?
DeAndre jordan and Blake Griffin during the national anthem previous to the Clippers preseason opener vs the Warriors.(photi credit Getty Images)
Okay, so part 1 of our preview handled the personal changes the Clippers made, but from a logistical and tactical standpoint the Clippers have to do a few things differently this season if they hope to crack the top two in the West and truly contend for a championship.
Offensive projections:
Nothing is changing, expect a lot of dunks, a lot of Blake Griffin and DeAndre in the post,

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Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Clippers 10/17/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Los Angeles Clippers looked to score a preseason win on Friday night, when they faced the Utah Jazz.

The Clippers were one of the NBA‘s best, most explosive teams last season, but they faced a tough test from a young Jazz roster. 

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Winners, Losers from Week 2 of Los Angeles Lakers’ NBA Preseason

As the end of the Los Angeles Lakers’ second week of preseason basketball approaches, it behooves us to look at what went right and what went wrong.

It has been a bit of a bumpy ride in the land of purple and gold. There have been tears, sprains and spasms (more on that to follow), along with dead legs and some atrocious transition defense.

But that’s what training camp is all about—getting into condition and working out a myriad of kinks as players get acclimated to new coach Byron Scott’s way of doing things.

When asked Oct. 15 about some of his observations thus far during preseason, Scott answered, per a Lakers.com post-practice video:

The good is the fact that the guys have the effort, and that they’re trying their best, which I think is great. And their attention span is right there and they want to do all the right things… The bad is the transition part. We have to do a better job as far as locating guys, picking them up, stopping the ball and communicating.

It’s all in a week of preseason basketball.

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Utah Jazz vs. Los Angeles Lakers 10/16/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Los Angeles Lakers and Utah Jazz squared off on Thursday night in a preseason clash of teams looking to bounce back from disappointing showings.

Both the Lakers and Jazz looked to improve on lackluster performances last season, and Thursday’s game gave them a chance to prove they’d made strides during the offseason.

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2014/15 Los Angeles Lakers: Rising Up

It’s that magical time of year in the NBA, when hope springs eternal and all teams think that the upcoming season will be their best ever. While some teams will surely be rising up, the same amount will be rising down, with the rest floating along treading water (rising sideways). Since we at The Hoops Manifesto are always 100% accurate with our predictions, we’ve taken the guesswork out of it for you and will let you know which of these three categories each NBA team falls into this upcoming season. Next up: Los Angeles Lakers
 
2013/14: 27-55
 
Key Additions:
Julius Randle (backup power forward)
Jordan Clarkson (backup shooting guard)
Carlos Boozer (starting power forward)
Jeremy Lin (starting point guard)
 
Key Losses:
Kent Bazemore
Jordan Farmar
Pau Gasol
Jodie Meeks
Kendall Marshall
 
Vegas Win Total: 31.5
 
Verdict: Rising up
Don’t get too excited Lakers fans – yes, we are predicting that the Lakers will be better this season. But everything’s relative – they only won 27 ga…

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Predicting the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers will begin anew this season, with Kobe Bryant‘s return offering a glimmer of hope after an abysmal 2013-14 campaign. Can Kobe lift the Lakers back to the playoffs?

Kevin Ding joins Stephen Nelson to predict the good, the bad and the ugly for the 2014-15 Lakers in the video above.

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Jeremy Lin Deserves to Start for Los Angeles Lakers over Steve Nash

Jeremy Lin was acquired by the Los Angeles Lakers as an insurance policy for starting point guard Steve Nash, but it has become clear through training camp and in the preseason that Lin deserves the starting job.

According to head coach Byron Scott, via Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the team is already considering starting Lin over Nash:

Lin has been dealing with an ankle injury of his own, but the 26-year-old point guard has missed just 11 games over the last two seasons. After averaging 12.5 points, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game last year alongside James Harden and Dwight Howard on the Houston Rockets, the Lakers acquired Lin to add depth behind Nash and alleviate some of the pressure on the veteran.

Lin struggled in his first preseason game against Denver, missing all six of his field goals and finishing the day with just one point. He bounced back in his second game, though, and racking up 14 points, four assists and four rebounds.

On the other hand, Nash has already been dealing with back and hamstring injuries, according to Mike Trudell of Lakers.com, and pulled himself from Sunday’s loss to Golden State:

The problem for the Lakers is reliability. The team needs a consistent point guard who can lead the offense, and Lin is the better option at this point of their respective careers. Nash is 40 years old and played in only 15 games last season while dealing with injuries. After playing in only 50 games the previous year, Nash would be better suited for sporadic minutes off the bench.

Sitting a star like Nash won’t be easy, but Scott told Bresnahan and Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times about how he thinks the veteran will take the news if asked to be a role player: “I have no doubt in my mind that if I went to Steve and said tomorrow, ‘You know what, I’m going to start Jeremy and the games that you’re available, we’re going bring you off the bench,’ he’s such a professional that I don’t think it would be a problem whatsoever.”

The decision on which player is named starter should be based on who gives the team the best chance to win, not who had the most illustrious career. Los Angeles is trying to return to championship contention as soon as possible. As great as Nash was in the past, he is too injury-prone to carry the offensive unit throughout the 2014-15 campaign.

With players like Kobe Bryant, Nick Young and Carlos Boozer all looking for a point guard to find them when they get open, building a rapport with Lin as the starter instead of learning on the fly is the smart move for the coaching staff.

Nash’s possible switch to a backup role would also give the team a serious weapon off the bench. The less minutes Nash has on his legs, the longer he can stay healthy and remain a contributing factor to the team.

Lin would play the majority of the minutes each game, and Nash could come in and operate a dangerous second-team offense or even play alongside Kobe in a dynamic backcourt.

No one will ever doubt the skill of Nash when he is healthy, but his unreliability over the last two seasons can’t be ignored. The veteran will remain a valuable asset off the bench, but Lin should be the starter for the Lakers moving forward.

 

*Stats via NBA.com.

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