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Julius Randle Q&A: Adjustments as a small-ball center, progress to start the Lakers’ season

Randle discussed his new role off the bench, progress from last season, and much more in our exclusive Q&A with the Lakers’ big man!

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Julius Randle is in full swing this season as he rolls onward as an off-the-bench force for the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s averaging 11 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1 block in 18.6 minutes per game, becoming a potent punch for the reserves.

Stretch those averages out to 36 minutes, and he’s producing at a career-best rate of 21.3 points. That he’s shooting 62.2 percent overall from the field is a testament to just how efficient he’s been. That’s without mentioning how quickly he’s taken to playing a small-ball five role, while playing the most aggressive defense of his career. Things are going well.

Julius was kind enough to jump on for a phone interview after settling into Boston, sharing his thoughts on the first 10 games of the year, his adjustment to his new role, and much more!

You’ve hard a strong start to the season. Are you feeling the impact of your offseason work when you’re on the court?

“Absolutely. That was my biggest focus coming into the season. I'm definitely feeling the results. I definitely feel it, and I think it's a huge part of the good start to the year.”

10 games into the season, what feels like your biggest improvement on the floor from that?

“The biggest improvement is just my lightness. My movement without thinking. A lot of times big guys aren’t a mobile guy, his movement takes a lot of energy. For me, a lot of things have become effortless. Just moving around the court, and doing it without thinking, and not getting tired.”

You’re playing significant minutes as a small-ball center, how do you feel about that.

“It's different. For me it's pretty cool because, like I said, it's just effortless. I was able to drop weight and not lose strength, and become even more agile and mobile. I'm guarding those bigger guys and those centers, and I don't have to just rely on my strength, I'm relying on my feet and my quickness on defense.

“From an offensive standpoint, it's just kind of like a mismatch of my quickness to beat those guys who aren't able to move like I am. It's definitely been an adjustment, but it's been a good one.”

You’ve made 30 of your 37 layups his season. What’s has you finishing at the rim so effectively to start the year?

“It's just my explosiveness. Coming into the paint and not having to double-pump, and all that kind of stuff. Just finishing around the rim, finishing through contact. That's been a huge one for me.

“I put a lot of time in just working on my touch and all that type of stuff. It all becomes a big adjustment, and the league is always going to be an adjustment. Just gotta keep working, and thankfully I've made improvements this year on it.”

Do you feel any pressure when it comes to expectations of spacing the floor?

“For me it's just what comes to me naturally. I'm not going to do anything on the court to try to prove something. Obviously I've put a lot of time working on that, and I'm not necessarily worried about trying to prove that every game. I'm just trying to take what the defense gives me and go from there.

That's really just my focus on doing what's best for the team, and how I can help the team win games.”

What’s the biggest difference you see with this team compared to the last few seasons?

“For us we're just trying to hang our hat on playing hard every night and competing on the defensive end. I think that's the biggest improvement, we're just trying to be competitors on the defensive end and trying to let the rest take care of itself.”

If the Lakers are having a 2v2 tournament, who are you taking as your teammate?

“I’d probably take my guy Jordan Clarkson, because we came in together, and we just had the connection of being here the past three years, going on four years, so naturally I guess that's who I'd take. But I love all my teammates.”

Utah Jazz v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Do you feel like you and JC have a connection on the court having played together these last few seasons?

“Yeah, we came in together so we had that chemistry from Day 1. We kind of know each other's tendencies, and know how to communicate with each other, and know what's going on. Naturally, as we spent the most time together we're going to have the best connection, or however you want to put it.”

Has there been a message to the younger players about preparing for their first big road trip, or is the team just focused on each game?

“It's a game-by-game approach. Those conversations will happen throughout the course of the game, and pregame, during the game, all that type of stuff. On the road you kind of have to stick together, and really communicate, because it's tough environments that we're going to be playing in, and we just have to be ready to battle adversity.”

What do you attribute to the team’s defensive improvements?

“It was just training camp, that was our focus from Day 1. It's just kind of trying to be the identity of our team. Offense in the NBA kind of comes a lot easier, but to win games you have to be able to stop people down the stretch.”

You have a big summer ahead with free agency up next. Do you have anything specific you want to improve on over the next 70-plus games?

“Just trying to get better from game-to-game. Focus on what I can control and obviously continue to work on my game. As the season goes on more opportunities come up, to show things that you've worked on, but right now it's just about doing what you can to help your team win games.”

If you had to pick one aspect of your game biggest weapon, what is it?

“My versatility. Being able to do multiple things on both ends of the court, for sure.”

Are you surprised with how quickly you’ve taken to playing center?

“It's been a focus of mine throughout training camp and everything. For me, naturally I'm a competitor and I'm always up for a challenge. And what I did in the offseason obviously is helping me be prepared for these situations.

Has fatherhood and having a family changed your mentality this season?

“It's just a different motivation of who I do it for. My wife and my son are big motivations for me. If I'm ever tired, or lacking or whatever, I just kind of think of them, know that they're counting of me and they're my biggest fans in my corner. For me, my family has always been my motivation.”

What’s that been like from a day-to-day routine?

“For me it's scheduling things or whatever. I've always prided myself on how hard I work, and being the hardest worker, so for me I guess I'm taking it to a new level, but like I said, I've always prided myself on that. Now it's just managing everything, managing workouts, and practice, and spending time with my family as well.

“MET-Rx was huge for me when I was going through summer workouts. Whether it was meal replacement with the Big 100 bars, whether it was a meal replacement for breakfast because I'm not a big eater in the mornings. Or leaving for my weight workout in the morning and shifting to my basketball on-the-court stuff, using one of those meal replacements bar helped me have the energy that I needed going to that workout. MET-Rx was huge for me.”

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