SANTA BARBARA — The physically grueling practice made Julius Randle pause for a few seconds to gather his thoughts. It did not just involve the usual issues of an exhausting training camp.
He absorbed a hit to his mouth for two consecutive days without being rewarded with a foul call. On Friday, blood poured out of his mouth though he did not need stitches. On Saturday, at least no blood was drawn. Randle also no longer plays with tape on his ring and middle finger in his right hand after having stitches removed 11 days ago. But Randle has since jammed his right thumb.
That seems fine, though. None of that stopped Randle from imposing his power with his listed 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame. But something more uncertain has emerged: how much will Randle actually rely on his developed jumper in games?
“It’s good, but he hasn’t gotten a ton of reps on it” in practice, Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “Right now, we don’t want our bigs rolling on everything just to get them doing it. But it looks good before and after practice.”
Walton hesitated to evaluate Randle’s emerged in practice with his mid-range game because of those limited opportunities to take such shots. But Randle predicted that the repetitive offseason regimen with an unnamed shooting coach “breeds confidence” into fully translating in his game.
“As much as I can,” Randle said. “Just trying to feel everything out.”
Some of it could also depend on his role. Randle and Larry Nance Jr. will compete for minutes at power forward. But Walton has kept the possibility open that the two will play together, including Randle at the center position.
More clarity has emerged, however, on how Randle will fit in Walton’s offense catered on ball movement, floor spacing and fast pacing. Randle has quickly driven to the basket anytime he has grabbed a rebound or made a stop.
“That’s how I’m going to play,” Randle said. “I’ll lock down on defensive end, rebound and get up the court. I’ll make a play for my teammates and myself and wear teams down on the defensive end. Then I’ll wear them down even more on the other end.”