The "Julius Randle Debut Tour: Volume 2," got off to a nice start in the Los Angeles Lakers' opening night loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Randle muscled his way to a team-high 11 rebounds, also chipping in 15 points for his first career double-double. What stood out more than any statistic was the edge to Randle's game, a barely controlled brashness that belies his relative lack of experience and stature in the league.
This was an ongoing theme throughout preseason, and it manifested itself on opening night in against 20-year NBA veteran Kevin Garnett, long one of the league's leading trash talkers and scuffle inciters as well as a former MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Most 20-year olds would show some deference to such a player, but Randle gave precisely zero damns about Garnett's past achievements. He went right at KG from jump street, eventually inciting him into a technical foul. A rookie goading a vet into a technical isn't something we see everyday, but Randle's response after the game may have been the best part.
"It doesn't scare me. I'm not scared of anybody," Randle said of the exchange with Garnett. "I've been watching him all my life so I knew what to expect." These weren't just words either. After Garnett's technical, Julius gave KG just a liiitle extra stare after beating him for an And-1:
Then he gave Garnett an extra bump on their way back down the court:
Was that necessarily the smartest way to respond when the referees were looking to ice the situation? Of course not, but it was exactly the type of swagger and toughness the Lakers have been emphatically lacking the last few seasons. The icing on the cake had to be Randle clowning Garnett with the oldest inbounds trick in the book.
It's not just one of the former preeminent tough guys of the league Randle is ready to bully. Garnett's time has passed, but the current loudest mouth in the league is arguably Draymond Green. Green is also a far superior defender to Garnett at this point in their respective careers, but Randle didn't care about that either. "He can't guard me!" bellowed the ever-confident Julius in a display that so quickly went viral the Lakers' official Twitter account sent out this GIF of it:
Randle was also the one who initially annoyed Trevor Booker enough to get overly physical with him, leading to the intervention of Roy Hibbert, whom Booker was heated enough to take a swing at and earn himself a suspension.
We should have always known based on Randle's physical style of play that he would irk players around the league. It has to be frustrating to guard someone who best compares to a bowling ball knocking through helpless pins that can also beat you in a full court sprint. My chest hurts just watching people attempt to guard Julius down low as he plows his shoulder into their sternum, forever seeking out contact.
But it's in this new found chippiness we can see the fingerprints of Randle's apprenticeship with Metta World Peace. World Peace was anything but peaceful (I'm sorry for that pun) during his career, and while he is by all accounts one of the nicest, most friendly, and loyal people you will ever meet off the court, he loved getting under his opponent's skin.
"Julius doesn't have any fear," said Lakers head coach Byron Scott after Randle's exchange with Green in San Diego, and after a season cut so brutally short by a freak injury a calendar year ago, it was nice to see Randle back up those words on opening night. Randle could have had jitters during his second attempt at a regular season debut after the first one went so awry, but it's safe to say after he took it so directly and personally at a future Hall of Famer that there's no tentativeness to his game.
The Lakers' forward of the future with no fear is here.