It’s an hour before Thursday’s game.
Most fans who came early wanted to catch a glimpse of Kobe Bryant. Maybe only a handful notice Julius Randle’s dutiful workout with Lakers shooting coach Tracy Murray.
He moves around the perimeter and finds a groove on the right side, about 16 feet from the basket. He makes one, two, three in a row. The lefty doesn’t miss until his 10th attempt.
He looks relaxed, as if outside shooting isn’t the main thing he needs to improve in his first full NBA season. But it is, narrowly nosing out the need to use his right hand. (He practices that too, moving slowly around the lower part of the key and flipping the ball in with his right hand.)
He was at 52.2% within five feet of the basket but it dropped from there: 39.6% from 5-9 feet, 15.4% from 10-14 feet, 23.3% from 15-19 feet.
In today’s stretch-the-floor NBA, that’s a problem for an undersized power forward. Randle and the Lakers are working on it.
“If you watch in warmups or practice or shoot-around, he’ll knock those shots down,” Murray said. “He has to transform that mentally to the game. I think he’s a little too fast — adrenaline.”
Murray once scored 50 points for the Washington Wizards in an NBA career that spanned 12 seasons, including a brief stop with the Lakers in 2002-03.
The former UCLA star is trying to get Randle to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n.
Randle has fast feet and good strength, allowing him to get past defenders. Teams know this.
“When you’re not knocking it down or not shooting it in the game, people [come] out on you a little bit slower,” Murray said. “That’s why I have him use a slower release. They’re going to dare him to shoot it. It’s almost going to be a H-O-R-S-E shot.”
The real truth? Randle needs to work on his shot during the off-season.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, left, drives around Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza during the second half on Thursday.(Chris Carlson / AP)
The Lakers' Kobe Bryant dunks over Houston’s Clint Capela during a 107-87 Rockets win at Staples Center on Thursday.(Harry How / Getty Images)
Lakers' Julius Randle (30) reacts as he loses the ball out of bounds between Rockets’ Terrence Jones (6) and Donatas Motiejunas (20) during a 107-87 Rockets win at Staples Center on Thursday.(Harry How / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, right, battles Houston Rockets forward Trevor Ariza for the loose ball during the second half on Thursday.(Chris Carlson / AP)
Lakers’ Julius Randle attempts a layup between Rcokets’ Dwight Howard (12) and Clint Capela (15) as Roy Hibbert (17) looks on during a 107-87 Rockets win at Staples Center on Thursday.(Harry How / Getty Images)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, left, and Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard chat during the second half on Thursday.(Chris Carlson / AP)
The Houston Rockets’ Dwight Howard, left, grabs a rebound away from Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant in the first half of a game on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015.(Paul Buck / EPA)
Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, right, works against Houston Rockets’ Trevor Ariza in first half on Thursday.(PAUL BUCK / EPA)
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kobe Bryant watches during the second half against the Houston Rockets on Thursday.(Chris Carlson / AP)
Rockets center Dwight Howard slips past Lakers center Roy Hibbert while trying to score in the first half Thursday night.(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant is trapped by Rockets forwards Trevor Ariza, left, and Clint Capela during the first half.(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Rockets guard James Harden passes around Lakers center Roy Hibbert during the first half Thursday night.(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Rockets guard James Harden is fouled by Lakers center Roy Hibbert during a game on Dec. 17.(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)
Lakers guard Kobe Bryant tracks down a loose ball ahead of Rockets forward Trevor Ariza during the first half.(Harry How / Getty Images)
He and Murray get together before practice and after practice. They’ll work before games. That’s about it.
“If guys log a lot of [game] minutes, you have to keep them off their feet,” Murray said. “That’s what we’re working against during the season. You’re not going to expect any crazy improvements.”
Lakers Coach Byron Scott furthered the concept: This might take some time.
“It probably takes a year or two to get guys to really fully understand and commit,” Scott said. “You don’t want him to go back to old bad habits because he doesn’t think it works — during the season you get frustrated because it’s not going in. We just wait until the summertime, when we have plenty of time to kind of ingrain those things into his rhythm.”
Then again, Randle hit a three-pointer from 28 feet as the shot clock wound down in the second quarter Thursday night.
Call it an outlier. For now.