The rookie had reasons to fall further into an exhibition-season abyss.
His shot was way off, his turnovers were high and his coach kept saying he “looked lost” on the court while wondering aloud about his physical conditioning. Not to mention the blisters that had cropped up on his feet and the second-half seat on the bench he was given for apparent lack of hustle during an exhibition last week.
But Julius Randle finally offered a glimpse of what the Lakers saw before drafting the power forward seventh overall in June.
He had eight points, five rebounds and two blocked shots in 20 minutes of a 98-91 victory Sunday over the Utah Jazz.
In no way did Randle vault into an early rookie-of-the-year conversation with Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins. Especially after the guy ahead of him on the Lakers’ depth chart, Carlos Boozer, had 19 points, nine rebounds and six steals against the Jazz.
But for the first time in three weeks of the exhibition season, reporters crowded around Randle’s locker to talk about his strengths, not his shortcomings.
At which point, Randle revealed that Coach Byron Scott’s teasing, prodding or poking had not affected him. Nor had his own play dragged him down.
“I’m not frustrated at all,” Randle said. “I work too hard. I know eventually I’ll have success and I’ll figure things out.
“Instead of being frustrated and down, when my name is called, [I’m] excited, ready to go, ready to bring that energy, bring good vibes.”
Randle has five more weeks of being a teenager, so plenty of room has to be given here.
He was close to dominant at Kentucky, where his 6-foot-7¾ height was never a problem against the likes of Texas A&M or Tennessee. He will routinely go against players a couple of inches taller in the NBA, if not several inches taller, as was the case Sunday.
Rudy Gobert is Utah’s 7-foot-1 backup center, and he forcefully swatted away one of Randle’s shots in the first half Sunday. Randle got Gobert back later in the game, stopping him abruptly with a blocked shot as he went up for a dunk.
“He has a world of talent,” Scott said after the game. “It’s just a matter of him having that consistent effort every single night.”
Kobe Bryant isn’t known as a softie with younger players, in case anybody forgot his infamous Andrew Bynum parking-lot rant in 2007. He seems to like Randle but offers a curt perspective on the rookie’s opportunity with the Lakers.
“He can’t mess it up. Seriously. You mess this up, you have to be an idiot,” Bryant said.
Though Bryant actually used language more colorful than “mess,” his sentiment wasn’t far from Randle’s own words.
“Having a coach like Byron, learning from greats like Kobe, [Boozer], [Steve] Nash, all those guys and on top of that playing for the Lakers organization,” Randle said. “I’m in the perfect situation. I can’t mess it up.”
Nash still sidelined
Nash shot around for about 20 minutes before Sunday’s game but didn’t play.
“Just like most coaches would do, you just kind of pencil him out until you know he can play and then you pencil him back in,” Scott said.
Because of recurring back problems, Nash hasn’t played quality minutes since the exhibition opener.
Two players cut
The Lakers on Monday waived guard Keith Appling and center Jeremy Tyler, bringing their roster down to 17 players. Appling, a rookie out of Michigan State, had two points and two assists in 20 minutes of exhibition play. Tyler, a three-year NBA veteran, averaged 2.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in three exhibition games.
Bresnahan is a Times staff writer. Pincus is a Times correspondent.