PHOENIX — Only one game into the books of his Lakers’ head coaching career, and Byron Scott already struggled to sleep.
The reasons went beyond absorbing a double-digit season-opening loss. Scott also had to stomach the reality that he would coach rookie forward Julius Randle for quite a while. The Lakers announced Randle to miss the remainder of the 2014-15 season after having surgery on his right leg at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Wednesday morning.
“We’re all a little shocked by it and disappointed and hurt,” Scott said before the Lakers visited the Phoenix Suns at U.S. Airways Center. “Talking to him after the game, I was basically and holding him listening to him cry and console him as much as possible.”
But instead of wallowing in that negativity, the Lakers are trying to maintain a balance.
The Lakers expressed sympathy for Randle, whom the Lakers selected seventh overall from this year’s NBA draft after posting a nation-leading 24 double doubles. Although Scott often critiqued Randle’s conditioning and effort, he became pleased with his progress as a bruising big man who could also hit mid-range jumpers and handle the ball. Lakers forward Ed Davis envisioned Randle could consistently produce double doubles in the NBA.
“Everybody on the team loves Julius,” Scott said. “He is a great kid, works his butt off and we expected a lot from him this year. The guys are going to miss him.”
But the Lakers also tried taking the first step forward in moving on without Randle. Scott already carved out more minutes for Davis at the backup power forward spot. Meanwhile, both Davis and Nick Young reported contacting Randle to ensure he stayed in high spirits.
“I joked that we’re both on an island,” said Young, who will not return until late November because of a surgically repaired right thumb. “He wrote back ‘laugh out loud” so I think he’s in high spirits.”
Randle has dealt with injury issues earlier in his career.
In the second game of his senior year at Prestonwood Academy, Randle broke the fifth metatarsal in his right foot in what was considered a season-ending injury. Randle returned for five playoff games and averaged 28.8 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks en route to Prestonwood Academny’s third consecutive state championship. He was then granted an exemption to play in the McDonald’s All-American game.
“We have to realize he’s 19 years old,” Scott said. “We don’t know how he’s going to react. He’s obviously very disappointed last night and very hurt. Just like I told him, this is going to make you stronger. You have some adversity right now,. But this is going to make your stronger. I truly believe that with him that he will come back better.”
Scott believes that partly because he has a trusted star named Kobe Bryant who has experienced similar issues in recent seasons. Bryant tore his left Achilles tendon 18 months ago, returned eight months later and then played in six games before suffering a season-ending left knee injury .
“He’s living proof that you can come back from injuries that a lot of people said were career-ending type of injuries,” Scott said of Bryant. “I’m not saying that Julius is, but he’s got one of the best players to ever play the game that can console him and talk to him about kind of moving on.”
It turns out that has already happened.
“We’re a little down, but Kobe has been through it all and talked to us,” Young said. “We’re here trying to keep people’s spirits up.”