After playing Julius Randle only 11 minutes against Memphis, Luke Walton offered an explanation Friday morning.
“Julius has shown us how great he can be,” Walton said. “… Some nights when he doesn’t play big minutes is because other guys are rolling and some nights it’s because I don’t believe he is playing up to the standard that he set for himself. I want him to feel and realize the difference in those nights as part of his growth.”
Walton declined to specify which of those two factors led to Randle’s low minutes against Memphis. Friday night, Randle made his first start of the season amid a rash of injuries. Randle had 18 points on eight-of-16 shooting and seven rebounds in 29 minutes of a 121-106 loss to the Clippers.
Randle’s minutes have fluctuated this season and the situation has been especially fraught with concern given his contract situation. He is in the final year of his rookie deal and is slated to be a restricted free agent this summer. Randle also has been the subject of trade discussions by the Lakers.
He played 55 minutes in two recent games against the Warriors. Those games were separated by a win in Houston in which Randle played only eight minutes. But Randle said he didn’t mind his low minutes because the Lakers won.
“For me a lot of times we want him running, we want him playing fast, we want him running into screens,” Walton said. “… He is such a dynamic roller when he does it that he collapses a defense with how he can move around the court, so those are the things that are probably consistent for him to do” to play.
The Lakers listed Kyle Kuzma as questionable with a right quadriceps contusion but he started Friday’s game after he felt better in the morning.
“Feeling better than I was at [last night’s] game,” Kuzma said Friday morning. “It got super sore in the morning. Couldn’t really walk normal. Getting better.”
Kuzma added that the injury, which he suffered by getting kneed against the Grizzlies, would be with him for a while. But he still was effective in the first half Friday night.
Lonzo still healing
The Lakers’ decision on whether or not to take Lonzo Ball on their two-game road trip this weekend is a little more complicated than it normally would be.
Ball is recovering from a left shoulder sprain he suffered last week against Portland. The Lakers will play at Houston and Minnesota in a back-to-back on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Walton said the grueling travel schedule could cause the Lakers to leave Ball in Los Angeles.
“His shoulder’s feeling better,” Walton said. “It’s something we’re just going to keep treating and if he feels good enough to go, we’ll get him on the court for shooting, after that we’ll get him to practice and then we’ll get him back on the court.”
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