The arena had barely started to fill up in Minnesota, but Julius Randle provided a status update with one little basketball movement.
He grabbed a rebound from his missed shot, planted with his back to the basket and jumped up for a reverse dunk.
It was an individual pregame workout an hour before the Lakers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, but it was something Lakers fans could appreciate.
The rookie from Kentucky played only 14 minutes before suffering a broken leg in the season opener. He also has undergone foot surgery for a separate injury from a few years ago and is stepping up his physical regimen to be ready for the Lakers' summer-league basketball team in July.
It's hard to tell how the seventh pick in last year's draft will fare in the NBA. He's a bit undersized for his position — 6-feet-7¾ in bare feet — and has only started working on his outside shot in a league trending toward stretch power forwards. He took dozens of three-point attempts Wednesday and said afterward it felt "a lot more comfortable than it was" before the broken leg.
Randle has started tagging along with the team on road trips, including the Lakers' next game Friday in Toronto, and his aptitude curve appears high.
"Learning a lot about the dedication it takes," he said in an interview while still sweating from his workout. "You're traveling a lot and it's hard on the body — getting less sleep, back-to-backs, traveling three nights in a row. I've definitely not had any setbacks, so I'm just making sure I'm being cautious and really taking care of my body."
With the Lakers (19-51) lurching toward their worst season ever, this could have been Randle's time to shine. Veteran big men Carlos Boozer and Jordan Hill will sit at least four games so the Lakers can evaluate younger players, a move that certainly won't hurt the chances of keeping their top-five-protected pick in this year's draft.
Lakers Coach Byron Scott recently said this was "kind of a wasted year" for Randle, knowing there would be tons of playing time available, plenty of chances to see what worked and what didn't at the NBA level. It's helped dramatically for rookie Jordan Clarkson, who took over starting point-guard duties two months ago.
There's no chance Randle will play this season, and he has not been cleared for full contact, but he's anticipating some sort of competition in July, even if it will be NBA rookies-in-waiting and other young players.
"Hopefully my body's feeling right, my leg's 100% and I'm able to work myself back into shape," he said. "That's definitely the biggest thing, getting that strength back in my leg so I can really explode off of it."
Until then, he has been working on his jump shooting, his footwork in the post and, of great importance to him, maintained a strict diet centered on grass-fed meats.
"I'm actually at a lesser weight now than I was at the beginning of the season ... and I'm dropping weight as I'm working out," he said. "We're 19- and 20-year-old kids, so we have a stigma about us that we can eat whatever we want. You've got to do what's best for your body. That's something I learned this year."
Scott to return
Scott will rejoin the team after missing two games for the funeral of his mother, Dorothy, who died last week after a long illness.
"I haven't spoken with him or texted with him or anything. That's the way it should be," said assistant coach Paul Pressey, who filled in for Scott. "I'm praying for his family that through this transition, things will go smooth."
LAKERS VS. TORONTO
When: Friday, 4:30 p.m. PDT.
Where: Air Canada Centre.
On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.
Records: Lakers 19-51; Raptors 42-30.
Record vs. Raptors: 1-0.
Update: The Raptors have been one of the NBA's biggest surprises, but their current 4-8 skid dropped them to fourth in the Eastern Conference. All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry has been bothered by back problems and probably won't play against the Lakers. Kobe Bryant had 31 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in a 129-122 overtime victory against Toronto in November at Staples Center.