A fan kept yelling the same thing, over and over, almost mournfully.
Bryant sat out the Lakers’ exhibition game Wednesday so he could rest.
By the end of it, though, another fan was screaming something in a more upbeat tone: “He’s only 19, baby? Nineteen!”
That would be praise for Julius Randle, who had his best exhibition game by a landslide in the Lakers’ 94-86 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Ontario.
Randle had 17 points, eight rebounds and a number of coast-to-coast runs with the ball.
Shades of Lamar Odom? Maybe.
Left-handed power forward? Check. Willing to push the pace off a rebound? Check. Two-time NBA champion and winner of the sixth-man-of-the-year award? Um. Well.
At the very least, the seventh pick in the draft is an entertaining quote.
“I just told my mama the other day, I said, ‘I don’t want to just be a post player,’” Randle said. “I remember I was always taller than everybody when I was younger. People used to call me, like, ‘Oh, he’s going to be the next Shaq.’ I’m like, ‘No, I don’t want to be the next Shaq. I want to be Kobe.’”
On one of his end-to-end voyages, Randle took the rebound, dribbled downcourt … kept dribbling … and finished with a layup over Portland forward Victor Claver. Another time he jumped up to steal Will Barton’s alley-oop pass, took off full speed and drew a foul as he attacked the basket at the other end.
How has Randle seemingly improved from his first several exhibitions, when he looked more tentative than anything?
“Besides the fact that we get on him every single day about the little things?” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said. “I don’t think the kid has ever really had to play hard. I know he has never had to work as hard as he’s had to this year. Each game, he seems to get a little better. Again, we all tend to forget that he’s 19 years old.”
About those little things…
“Little things, big things, everything,” Randle said, adding quickly, “Nah, I’m just messing with you.”
He made seven of 10 shots, including two long-range jumpers in the fourth quarter, one of them a bank over Thomas Robinson, who shook his head in disbelief.
Randle was shooting only 39.1% before Wednesday, his outside touch not clicking the first six exhibition games.
“I’ve worked too hard on it, put too much time in it so I’m just not going to abandon it,” he said. “If I get the same shot, I’m going to keep taking the same shot until I get extremely confident and consistent with it.”
Rookie Jordan Clarkson (strained calf) played for the first time in almost two weeks, scoring six points in 15 minutes. Jordan Hill sat out because of a strained neck.
Bryant now sitting
Bryant finished exhibition play with averages of 19 points, four assists, three rebounds and 1.7 steals in 26.7 minutes. Also of note was his low 39.6% shooting.
He will skip Friday’s finale against Sacramento in Las Vegas. The Lakers begin the regular season Tuesday against Houston.
“I just think he needs some rest. I think he’s shown me enough,” Scott said. “He understands what the goal is. And the goal is to get off to a pretty good start as far as he was [physically] concerned, build up his minutes and his endurance and everything.”