Julius Randle sat in a chair in front of a locker and gazed at the dark carpet. You had to strain your neck to hear him as he spoke while looking down.
He was half an hour removed from a frayed outing Friday against the Sacramento Kings. It was unacceptable to him.
Five fouls, five turnovers, three points and two rebounds for Randle in the Lakers’ oh-so-humbling 132-114 loss.
He kept using the word “stagnant” to describe his game.
He was hardly stale Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks, turning Friday’s disappointment into “We want Randle” chants from Lakers fans when he took a brief rest in the fourth quarter.
He had a double-double by halftime and finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds in the Lakers’ 103-93 loss. He didn’t embarrass himself against Dirk Nowitzki, one of the best big men from an outgoing generation of NBAers.
After airballing a short runner early in the first quarter Sunday, Randle dunked on Nowitzki after a nice up-and-under move. Later, he sized Nowitzki up along the left baseline, turned on his speed and beat him for a layup, turning it into a three-point play after getting fouled.
Randle wasn’t celebrating a bounce-back game. He was down on his defense, cognizant of Nowitzki’s 25 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
“He’s top 10 in [all-time] scoring, or whatever. A dude like that, you can’t give him open looks,” Randle said, noting that plenty of Nowitzki’s baskets were accompanied by too little resistance.
Randle’s only 20, a year older than rookie D’Angelo Russell, and gets the full support of a franchise that drafted him seventh overall in 2014.
“Everybody talks about D-Russ being young but Julius is really basically a rookie as well,” Lakers Coach Byron Scott said recently. “He’s just trying to find his way.”
Russell’s outings are analyzed almost quarter by quarter, mapped out point guard by point guard: Rajon Rondo on Friday, Deron Williams on Sunday and fellow rookie Emmanuel Mudiay on Tuesday.
Randle, however, is also going through the league for the first time, a 14-minute opener against Houston last season not withstanding before he sustained a season-ending broken leg.
He went face to face in a very real way with Kevin Garnett last week and found himself matched up occasionally with All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins a few days ago.
“Every night there’s a power forward that’s going to be gearing up and ready” for Randle, Scott said.
He had 15 points and 11 rebounds in a season-opening 112-111 loss to Minnesota. He was spry in that game, more of a factor, certainly not the proprietor of an ugly 5-5-3-2 stat line.
Tuesday will be Randle’s next test, a matchup against physical Denver big man Kenneth Faried and another chance to succeed or fail.
World Peace activated
Metta World Peace was on the active list Sunday after spending the first two games on the inactive roster.
He didn’t get into the game and still hasn’t logged an official minute in the NBA since February 2014. He did not catch on with a team last season and played overseas.
Reserve center Robert Sacre was deactivated for Sunday’s game, along with rookie Larry Nance Jr.
Reserve forward Brandon Bass sustained a corneal abrasion in his left eye Sunday and will be evaluated further Monday.
He had 10 points and five rebounds in 20 minutes.