Talk to the Lakers’ shooting coach about 21-year-old forward Julius Randle and you’ll probably hear quotes attributed to famous basketball people.
Tracy Murray will remind you of John Wooden’s “Be quick but don’t hurry” mantra. Or he’ll mention Reggie Miller, who had an unusual shooting style but deadly accuracy and would say, “It’s not just your form that matters.”
As the Lakers try to unlock the subtle mysteries of the No. 7 pick in the 2014 NBA draft, shooting coach Murray sounds wise, taking the long view on a player who’s a bit short to play power forward but makes up for it with extra effort.
That shot, though. Oh, that outside shot.
If Randle could drain 16-footers with the same zeal he tracks rebounds, the Lakers would have a real player on their hands.
Randle, listed at 6 feet 9, obviously gets the rebounding part, leaving the Lakers to work on his shot. It’s where Wooden’s words come into play.
Randle easily takes a defensive rebound and moves the length of the court with it. But then his attempt at the basket is often askew. He also tends to hurry when fed the ball in the post.
“When he’s going fast, he has a flat shot. It looks like it’s coming out of a cannon,” said Murray, who had a 12-year NBA career that included a 50-point outburst for the Washington Wizards. “When he puts it on the deck, he hasn’t figured out how to slow the shot down. That’s the next step. Slow down and get the shot high and far. He already finishes high [with his release]. Now he has to shoot the ball up instead of out.”
Murray can relate. Stop signs were thrown at him almost immediately after he was drafted 18th overall out of UCLA in 1992.
“That’s the hardest thing for young guys to understand. When they tell you that you’re not fast, then you try to be fast,” he said. “I had to go through it as a player.”
It’s important to note that Murray has no problem with Randle’s catch-and-shoot style. None at all, actually.
“Right now, he is catching and shooting without thinking about it, without worrying what people are thinking,” Murray said. “He’s catching it in the flow and he’s shooting the basketball with confidence. Between the ears is 90% of the jump shot. I don’t care how great your form is. If you look at the great Reggie Miller, he had a weird form, but how great of a shooter was Reggie Miller?”
Randle is shooting 42% from the field this season, 21st out of 22 power forwards eligible for statistical consideration and ahead of only Detroit’s Marcus Morris. Randle takes 0.4 three-point attempts a game, Morris takes 3.4.
Randle has been hitting a more acceptable 48% in 14 games over roughly the last month, and that includes a one-for-five clunker Monday against Milwaukee.
“Summertime, that’s when the off-the-dribble stuff starts,” Murray said. “That’s when the pump-fake, one-bounce dribbles start. Or the pump-fake, step-back stuff. That’s all next-level stuff.
“The first foundation of it is catch and shoot. If you can catch and shoot, then defenses start paying attention to you. When they start paying attention to you, now your strength comes in — putting the ball on the deck and going.”
It’s not like Randle needs a boost, but the likely top two players in the June draft play power forward in college: LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram, who might move to small forward in the NBA.
It’s nothing he spends a lot of time considering. There are other things to worry about, specifically getting the ball into the basket when he’s outside the paint. Randle noticed his shot getting smoother in recent weeks, with “a lot more arc,” he said.
“For me it’s really about repetition. When I get in the game, shoot the same shot,” he said. “I’m excited for the off-season. I know I’m willing to make the sacrifice and put in the time to get better.”
LAKERS AT MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
When: Wednesday, 5 p.m. PST.
On the air: TV: TWC SportsNet, TWC Deportes; Radio: 710, 1330.
Records: Lakers 11-47; Grizzlies 32-23.
Record vs. Grizzlies: 0-1.
Update: Memphis had trouble scoring earlier this season but fared pretty well lately until getting only 85 points in a loss to Toronto on Sunday. The Grizzlies have been forced to play more small ball without center Marc Gasol, who has a broken right foot that will likely end his season. The Lakers have lost seven consecutive games against Memphis.