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Lakers refuse to trade Julius Randle in DeMarcus Cousins deal, impressed with Randle's improvement

DeMarcus Cousins trade talks might not move anywhere, and Julius Randle's improvement might be why.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are preparing for the next big step in their rebuild, but the return of Julius Randle might be an even bigger reason to be excited about the upcoming season. The Lakers refuse to include Randle, the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, in any deal centered around DeMarcus Cousins, reports Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

The Lakers and Kings have discussed the framework of a trade to send the All-Star big man to Los Angeles, but both sides seemed far apart in their demands. Sacramento is seeking out a package that includes the No. 2 pick, Randle, Jordan Clarkson and additional assets in return for DeMarcus, cleaning out the Lakers of interesting pieces to build forward with in return for a proven 24-year-old center.

Randle might be the big sticking point. Several reports in the last few days point toward the Lakers being very impressed with Julius' progress. The power forward dropped 20 pounds and has even improved his outside shot "a lot." Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that Randle has been "wow-ing" folks with during workouts with the Lakers. Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report noted that Julius has been an "absolute beast" since getting back into action. Clearly the Lakers are letting the ears around them hear that Julius is looking better than ever.

How much of that is true is up for debate, but Randle definitely looks like he's in the best shape of his life in the little bit we've seen of him. We'll know for certain how he looks once Las Vegas Summer League play begins on July 10, but a Cousins trade may be lingering in the air well-beyond that date. There's only a 10 percent chance a deal gets done today, according to Bresnahan.

Which means the Lakers get to look ahead to the No. 2 pick, a fresh start with Randle, a second look at Jordan Clarkson and a returning Kobe Bryant. That's not a bad place to be no matter what happens.

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