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Lakers' Julius Randle adapting to his role off the bench

When the Lakers cut the Wizards’ lead to single digits Thursday night, Julius Randle was a big part of why.

Randle has been a catalyst for positive momentum for the Lakers lately, as he adjusts to his role off the bench.

“Strictly just wanting to win,” Randle said of what is motivating him. “You don’t work your butt off over the summer for no reason. That’s motivation in itself.”

Randle played 23 minutes and scored 11 points with nine rebounds against Washington. A day before, against the Boston Celtics, he scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

“I think he is accepted what we are kind of asking him to do right now and he’s been brilliant at it honestly,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “The running, switching on defense, the setting screens, and being a dynamic roller to the rim, he has been a great energy, his productivity and the ways he is getting things done in the second unit isn’t really possible without him in that second unit.”

Coming off the bench is new for Randle. He started in 73 of the 74 games he played in last season.

An opposing view

Wizards coach Scott Brooks wasn’t very familiar with Kyle Kuzma until recently.

“Did not know anything about him,” Brooks said. “I heard about him in the summer how he was having a good summer and then the fall I heard the whispers — not even the whispers — that it was pretty obvious he was playing pretty well. Then he started the season off averaging, I don’t know, 15 points a game? That’s solid for a rookie.”

Brooks isn’t alone there. Walton didn’t know anything about Kuzma either until after last season ended, when he got more involved with the Lakers’ scouting process.

Kuzma wasn’t a starter the last time Brooks saw him, but he made an impression.

“Kuzma is really talented,” Brooks said. “He’s a bouncy, active, very talented player. Makes threes, defends, puts it on the floor. He presents problems. He’s a good player.”

But while Brooks showered Kuzma with praise, he didn’t leave out the Lakers’ more high-profile rookie.

“And then [Lonzo] Ball,” Brooks said, “he’s going to be a star in this league.”

Etc.

Vander Blue, who is one of the two players on a two-way contract with the Lakers, was active Thursday night. Blue is allowed to spend 45 days with the Lakers and must spend the rest of his time with the South Bay Lakers, their development league affiliate. … The Lakers did not fare well against the Morris twins this week. Markieff Morris scored 16 points for the Wizards, making six of seven shots. Celtics big man Marcus Morris scored 18 points Wednesday, making seven of 15 shots and three three-pointers.

tania.ganguli@latimes.com

Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli

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