Julius Randle has made huge strides toward his recovery after starting off his Los Angeles Lakers career by breaking his leg in the first regular season game. The Lakers are hopeful Randle will be fully cleared to take training camp on at maximum capacity from Day 1, and the young forward told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports that Kobe Bryant was the most important figure that helped him through his recovery.
"The biggest person to help get me through this was Kobe - by far," Randle said of Bryant pushing him through the exhaustive process that's been as much about patience and perspective as it has been about grinding out day-to-day improvements. Kobe's taken to teaching Julius what he can, spending time mentoring him on basketball while both players recovered from season ending injuries. The frustration bubbled to the surface during Summer League, where Randle was limited to playing 20 minutes per game in five-minute spurts, but he's now closer than ever to returning back to his regularly-scheduled basketball life.
That tutoring began during training camp and included film study, which Randle wrote about on The Cauldron last season, one-on-one sessions and more, as Wojnarowski details. The kind of hands-on training Bryant has given Randle is a huge deal, especially for a player who grew up idolizing the Black Mamba. He had Kobe in his corner pushing him back from a devastating injury just as his career was about to take off, which is about as close as a young man to get to having a hero lifting him back to his feet.
Randle already has a plan any Lakers fan can get behind to pay it forward, too. Here's what Julius said about how he plans on repaying Kobe, via Wojnarowski:
Bryant lost his season to a rotator cuff tear in February, but balanced his own angst with months of pushing and prodding of his teenage teammate. Bryant always chooses his pupils carefully, rewarding those who demonstrate a serious-mindedness to the craft. More than that, Bryant understands Randle is one of the burgeoning talents who could give him reason to postpone retirement.
"I hope we can give him a reason to keep playing," Randle says. "I want to keep learning from him. Kobe's going to challenge you and push you. If you have a certain fire, a love for the game, that doesn't bother you. He may not always say something to piss you off, but he maybe just says something that makes you think."
Kobe's presence could be instrumental in the development of not only Randle, but D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson as well. Bryant was seen working with Clarkson on the sidelines several times last season, and the young roster seems to be thrilled with an opportunity to pick the brain of a living legend. Perhaps the legend will continue on If they can band together for a momentous first step together.
Excitement is starting to build up for the season, and even though Julius' career got off to a murky start, it sounds like he got by with a little help from his friend Kobe. You can read the full profile on Randle over at Yahoo Sports.