At one time, Julius Randle was the first part of the Lakers’ rebuilding effort.
Now he’s leaving the Lakers to join the New Orleans Pelicans.
“Mannnnnnnnn tooooo excited!!” Randle said on Twitter. “Excited about the future. Let’s get to work!”
On Monday, the Lakers renounced their rights to Randle, freeing up $12.5 million in salary cap space from a cap hold that allowed them to keep his rights as a restricted free agent. Randle agreed to a two-year, $18-million deal with the Pelicans.
With the added salary cap space, t the Lakers signed former Pelicans point guard Rajon Rondo to a one-year deal worth $9 million.
Randle’s future with the Lakers depended heavily on what else the organization would be able to do in free agency. Although Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka and coach Luke Walton gave public votes of confidence to Randle, saying they’d like to see him return, behind the scenes little progress was made toward re-signing Randle.
The Lakers made a qualifying offer of $5.6 million last week, a procedural move that allowed them to retain Randle’s rights as a restricted free agent. But they did not offer him a long-term deal.
A day after reaching an agreement with LeBron James, the Lakers planned a conversation with Randle’s agent, Aaron Mintz, who also represents Paul George.
Randle’s time with the Lakers included dramatic ups and downs.
He was the seventh pick in the 2014 draft, the first of four consecutive years of lottery picks for the Lakers. In his first game as a rookie, Randle suffered a broken leg and sat out the rest of the season. When he returned in his second year, he was utilized as a starter for most of the season before being benched by then-coach Byron Scott.
Randle started in 72 of the 73 games he played during the 2016-17 season.
In the summer of 2017, Randle worked to reshape his body and impressed the Lakers by doing so. But they still didn’t offer him a contract extension, and when the season began he had been demoted to a reserve role. Upset at the change, Randle took time to adjust before refocusing his attention on his play. He developed into a skilled backup center when the Lakers went to smaller lineups.
By the end of the season, Randle had again turned himself into the Lakers’ starting power forward. He was the only Laker to play in all 82 games last season.
But as with the rest of his team, his future with the Lakers depended on what else the team could accomplish in free agency.
Follow Tania Ganguli on Twitter @taniaganguli