In the midst of a career year with the Los Angeles Lakers, former No. 7 overall pick Julius Randle sat down with ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk to talk about his rollercoaster season, his impeding free agency and the possibility of playing alongside another superstar.
Randle’s situation this summer is going to be interesting to watch unfold. With a $12.4 million cap hold, Randle is a small wrinkle in the Lakers’ plans to sign two max free agents this summer. But in the event they strike out completely, he’s also their best backup plan.
There’s also a scenario that would allow the Lakers to retain Randle while signing just one max free agent like Paul George or LeBron James. Randle was asked about James specifically and he said he’d welcome The King and his crown to Los Angeles with open arms.
“It would definitely be interesting because we are building something. We really see our young core developing, so it would definitely be something interesting,” Randle said recently of playing with James only after insisting he has his mind focused on finishing the season strong for his team. “I played with [Kobe Bryant]. ... What you learn from Bean as far as mentality and just the little things, his work ethic, I would love to play with Bron and learn the same things.
”[Learning and soaking in] what makes him so great, what does he do that makes him so great and how does he make everybody else so great. He has made a living off of making teammates better. So you have a guy like that, it makes a lot of things easier, I would say.”
Randle did his best LeBron James impression Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, positing a career-high 36 points, 14 rebounds and 7 assists. After the game, James acknowledged how dominant the former Kentucky product has been recently.
“Everybody’s had a hard time with him as of late,” James said.
If Randle keeps playing at a high level, and all signs to point to that being the case, he is going to get paid this summer. The question now is whether or not the Lakers are going to be the ones to cash him out.
Randle will have interest from several teams, including his hometown Dallas Mavericks, but when asked about his upcoming free agency, Randle didn’t sound too keen on the idea of relocating.
“It would be tough to say no to L.A., honestly,” Randle said with a chuckle when asked how much he wants to remain a Laker. “It is the place that drafted me. I would love to be here. I have to do what is best for the family and hopefully they want me here as well.”
The Lakers will be able to match any offer Randle signs this summer, so whether or not he returns is ultimately up to them. But with Randle emerging as a star at just 23 years old, the Lakers would be wise to include Randle in whatever plans they have this summer.