ONTARIO — The ball fell into Julius Randle’s hands, leaving open a wide range of possibilities that makes the Lakers captivated about his development.
On one play, Randle sprinted up the court, dribbled behind his back and set up Kobe Bryant for an open jumper. On another play, Randle muscled his way inside, grabbed a rebound and converted on the putback layup. On another play, Randle showed off his range by immediately taking an open jumper. On another play, Randle demonstrated his strength by bulldozing his way into the post and making a left-handed hook shot.
“He can rebound, push the ball, score pass,” Lakers guard/forward Kobe Bryant said. “He can do everything.”
Yes, Randle seemingly did everything in the Lakers’ 105-97 preseason loss to Toronto on Thursday at Citizens Business Bank Arena. He posted 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting in what marked his second consecutive double-digit scoring effort. He grabbed five rebounds. He dished off five assists. All of which led Lakers coach Byron Scott to say, “I’m very happy with the way he’s playing.”
But Randle wants more. Much more.
“I’m just going to stay hungry,” Randle said. “There’s so much more I can do out there. So many gimmes and stuff I can get better at.”
The Lakers love Randle’s attitude, repeatedly mentioning how he improved his diet and film study after sitting out 81 games during his rookie season last amid a fractured tibia in his right leg. The Lakers also seem more than willing to provide a heavy laundry list of things to improve to feed Randle’s big appetite.
Said Scott: “I know he can get a lot better.”
Scott revealed before the game that he does not want Randle to hesitate on taking open jump shots even if his marksmanship has proven faulty. Instead of taking an open elbow jumper on one play against Toronto, Randle inched inside and converted on a fadeway.
“There’s sometimes where I’m hesitating off the open kick,” Randle said. “Stuff that I worked on all summer. It’s another level to me. Staying confident in what I;m doing and go from there.”
Randle also sparked plenty of whistles early by picking up three of his four fouls in the first quarter, prompting Scott to remove him at the 6:17 mark. Randle blamed himself for committing “a dumb foul” when he contested Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas in the first minute of the game. He also faulted himself for making “a bad play” and “a bad read” for charging into Valanciunas at the 6:16 mark instead of passing to Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson for an open three-pointer.
“I had to keep my hands up,” Randle said. “I was kind of more controlled with my drives and on defense.”
But Randle still did that while showing off the other skills he has already.
“He’s competing and getting a lot of things right that we’ve talked about on both ends of the floor,” Scott said. “He’s a worker.”
And Randle’s a worker who does not want to punch out his timercard just yet.
“I just got to keep on improving,” he said. I’ll stay confident, keep working and keep building on things, watching film and seeing what I can get better at and go from there.”