The Los Angeles Lakers are close to starting off the season with a completely healthy roster, with the status of Julius Randle is one of the last remaining question marks. Randle was held to a stringent minutes restriction during Summer League, and the team is still approaching the next important step in his recovery with caution. Lakers head athletic trainer Gary Vitti sat down for a Q&A session with Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, and said the team is hopeful Randle will be ready for a full-strength training camp run.
Vitti stated there have been three major goals set for Randle's recovery, with the first being him playing through Summer League. Starting training camp without any restrictions is the next step, and the Lakers will evaluate Randle first before making any final decisions on what his workload will look like from day one. Ultimately, the final step is him being able to play in the season opener on Oct. 28 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
How they'll monitor Randle's progress sounds like a part of the franchise's initiative to take an analytics approach across every vertical. Vitti explained to Medina how the Lakers will not only measure Randle's "intensity," but that they'll also use this process to keep an eye on every player:
"Number one is pain. The things that we look at are pain, inflammation and swelling as well as talking to him on how he feels. It's also his performance on the court and his recovery on the court. We look at things like load and intensity. So when we're in a game at an NBA arena, we have an eye in the sky. The eye in the sky tells us how many accelerations there are to the left and how many accelerations there are to the right as well as how many decelerations. We can tell how many accelerations and decelerations there are and the trajectory of them. That information goes in an algorithm that tells us the average speed that the player played at. We multiply that by the distance that he ran in a game. We multiply that by his body weight. That gives us a number that we call load. We look at that number. But then we also take that number and divide it by time, which is minutes played, and that gives us intensity.
So what we want to see as his load goes up, does his intensity go up with it. If it does, then we're okay. If the intensity goes down as the loads are going up, then we have three zones. Red, yellow and green, like a traffic light. If the loads and intensity are going up at the same time, we let him go. If the intensity starts going down, some of that is to be expected and that goes into a yellow zone, we pay a little bit more attention and then we figure it out. Maybe we let them play, but we hold back in practice. Or maybe we cut the minutes and we push a little harder in practice so that down the road he can play more minutes. Maybe we cut minutes in games and in practice. It depends on the situation. Then of course if he gets into a red zone, all bets are off. We really feel we have to restrict him.
This isn't just for Julius. We do this for all of our players.
It's an interesting morsel of concrete information from the training staff, and it stands as evidence of their public push for progression has action behind it. Continued patience for and from Julius is key as he makes a full recovery, and the Lakers are prepared with a plan in place to benefit the health of the entire roster. The full interview with Vitti paints a very clear picture about the approach the training staff has prepared to make sure Randle gets the care he needs as he gets back into basketball condition, so make sure to check out Medina's incredibly informative interview.
The Lakers hold media day on Sep. 28, opening their Hawaii-based training camp the next day. Coverage of the team is ramping up, with Byron Scott opening about his anticipation heading into a fresh start, various reports on offseason workouts have sprouted, and players beginning to gravite around the training facility in El Segundo.
Starting off training camp without anything holding him back would be a big moment for Randle, who can set his sights on carving out his role with the team immediately.