Julius Randle may have lost his rookie season to a broken leg, but he's stormed back like a Texas tornado, and the Los Angeles Lakers should feel optimistic about his successful return to action. The Philadelphia 76ers would face a similar dilemma with Joel Embiid following the draft, selecting the ultra-talented big man just a few picks before the Lakers. Embiid is now likely to miss the entire '15-16 season, and an illuminating report from Brian Geltzeiler of The Cauldron paints an ugly picture in Philadelphia.
Embiid spent his year off in recovery ignoring his diet in favor of junk food, slurping down pitchers of Shirley Temples, and straying away from the demands of the 76ers' training staff. That he's now facing another major setback with his injured foot before playing a minute in his NBA career is alarming, and these kinds of poor habits can throw off the recovery process. Some within the organization even question if his lack of discipline during rehab led to the need for a second procedure, reports Geltzeiler.
Here's an excerpt on Embiid from the report on The Cauldron, which also sheds light on the entire 76ers "process":
The fact that Brown sent Embiid home from a West Coast road trip last season for being insubordinate to the team's strength coach and training staff is well documented, but according to a source, the tipping point in the decision was Embiid physically threatening the strength coach on that road trip. According to sources, this followed a pattern of insubordination from Embiid during the rehabilitation of his initial foot injury that sidelined him for the entire 2014-15 season, where he would repeatedly refuse to answer questions from the training staff about his workouts and therapy sessions.
Embiid's lax approach to his rehab and the circumstances surrounding the second foot surgery he needed this past summer — which appears like it will cost him the entire 2015-16 season — has caused the organization much anxiety. The simple task of getting Embiid to consistently wear his walking boot was a challenge for the franchise, and multiple sources suggested that some people in Philadelphia's front office wonder whether a second surgery would have been necessary if Embiid had worn the boot as much as he was told to ...
This type of disregard for instruction also extends to Embiid's dietary habits. Per a source, the Sixers' training staff was so concerned about what he was eating, they stocked the refrigerator in his downtown hotel residence each week with healthy food. When a staffer went to restock the fridge each week, most everything was uneaten and unopened, and they were throwing out the fruits and vegetables every week. When the team subsequently asked to see Embiid's room service bill, they found that most days he was ordering junk food along with his signature beverage, a pitcher of Shirley Temples. Embiid also was frequently seen feasting on chicken fingers and hot dogs at and after games.
There's no telling when Embiid will actually get on the court, and the kind of issues detailed in the critical report are all very worrisome. Shaping a lottery player's career is a difficult task as teenagers transition to being a professional after being stars at their respective campuses, and any serious injury is a challenge for even the veterans of the league to overcome. The road to recovery is a long process of consistent work, and navigating through that without guidance as a young player is no easy task. It's also fair to allow a kid learn from his mistakes and grow, so it's too early to write off Embiid for a botched rookie year. It clearly hasn't been a smooth start, though.
Randle's been the other side of this picture, working hard in his year away and coming back with more steam than he knows what to do with. He's taken a hold of his dietary habits, coming in lean and in fantastic shape. Julius was chomping at the bit through Summer League, and now that he finally has the green light, the energy he's put in is already paying off. His work ethic has been a continuous source of praise from those around the organization, a great sign for a 20-year-old expected to be a part of the Lakers' core going forward.
He made the most out of the opportunity to learn under the tutelage of Kobe Bryant while being forced off the court. Randle even wrote about his experience watching film and studying basketball with Kobe while he recovered. The value in having a figure like Kobe is intangible, who Julius also credited as the person who helped him the most through his recovery. Watching Julius' immediate impact lends credence to the importance of surrounding him with the right people -- one of the reasons Metta World Peace is getting an opportunity through preseason. There's a support system around Randle to make him successful, and he's taken ownership of the responsibility to make the most out of it.
That drive is something that can boost his development. Even with his breakthrough return to action, Randle's constantly talking about improving and staying focused. After a 7-of-10 performance for 17 points in Ontario, Julius continued talking about staying focused on digging deeper into the process more than the results he's already seeing. "I'm just going to stay hungry. There's so much more I can do out there, so many gimmes, stuff that I can get better at. I just have to keep improving, stay confident, and keep building and working on things."
Embiid's injury taking him down a disappointing start to his career, and Randle clearly headed the other direction, is an example of how so many things besides on-court abilities can shape these situations. Would Julius make the same recovery he has for the Lakers if he was in Philadelphia? Would a change of scenery and culture matter, or was this happening no matter which team drafted Joel? These kinds of things are impossible to measure, but what is certain from these contrasting tales is the Lakers should be very thankful Julius Randle came out of the other side better than ever.