The reactions ranged from eye gazing to eye cringing.
The Lakers marveled when their prized rookie Julius Randle bulldozed his way into the lane and muscled his way to produce 14 points in the team’s 89-88 overtime victory on Monday over Golden State in an NBA summer league game at Cox Pavilion. So much that Lakers’ summer league co-coach Mark Madsen described Randle to reporters in Las Vegas as a “matchup nightmare.” Madsen remembered all too well that he had the strenuous responsibility last month to guard Randle during his individual pre-draft workout.
“I know what it’s like to try to sit and guard him one-on-one,” Madsen said. “You can’t guard him one-on-one.”
The Lakers winced when Randle brought up the ball up the floor. He committed five turnovers. He remained determined at times to bring the ball up the floor. At times, Randle appeared in a bull in a china shop. Yet, Randle believes “it’s part of my game.”
“That’s something you show Julius on tape the next day,” Madsen said. “I didn’t want to take away his aggressiveness out there in terms of just allowing him to attack. We talked before the game on how we put the whole game plan up and you can follow the game plan to a ‘T.’ But ultimately we just want them to be aggressive. I’d rather that they have, like [John] Wooden used to say, an error of commission rather than an error of omission.”
The Lakers embrace how Randle appears in top form in only his second Summer League appearance despite numerous circumstances that kept him out of a game of five-on-five since Kentucky’s national championship game against UConn in April. He exercised caution as he received medical feedback on whether he would need surgery to treat a screw incorrectly inserted into his previously injured right foot. Randle stayed out of pre-Summer League practices because the Lakers did not sign his contract until this weekend so that they would have an additional $500,000 to pursue LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony. Yet, Madsen reported Randle using that time to watch film, learning the playbook and watching practice.
“I feel great. My wind was a lot better today,” Randle told reporters in Las Vegas. “Physically, I felt great with how I was moving and stuff. Just overall how I was moving in the flow of the game, I felt pretty good.”
The Lakers also understand Randle’s undeveloped skills at point guard can become refined. After all, it is Summer League where young prospects try to showcase their potential. After all, Randle showed flashes as a gifted playmaker who can make passes out of the post and facilitate from up top, resulting in three assists.
“He’s very difficult to guard because he’s so good with the ball,” Madsen said. “He has the skills of a point guard in the frame and the body size of a 6-9, 250-pound man.”
But regardless of how big Randle has become, it seems his growth will become bigger.
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org