Randle had a quiet night by his standards against his former team, putting up 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in 23 minutes. On the season, the former No. 7 overall pick is averaging a career-high 21.1 points per game on 52.2 percent shooting from the field, including 34 percent shooting from behind the arc.
Randle’s also contributing 8.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. The only other player to match those averages this season is Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The Lakers could have brought Randle, a restricted free agent, back this summer, but they decided to see renounce his rights (at Randle’s request) on just the second day of free agency, and according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN, they didn’t even make the 24-year-old forward an offer:
Even though the Lakers controlled Randle’s rights as a restricted free agent, L.A. never made an offer to him, sources told ESPN. This despite coach Luke Walton and his staff’s preference to keep Randle, as earlier reported by The Athletic and confirmed by ESPN.
Mintz eventually asked the Lakers to renounce Randle’s rights and navigated his client to the New Orleans Pelicans, where he signed a two-year, $18 million contract with a player option on the second year. Randle was won over, sources said, by the fact that the Pelicans really wanted him -- which wasn’t the feeling he got from the Lakers.
Naturally, the immediate reaction to that report is: Why? Unfortunately, the answer to that question is complex.
“Randle asked to be renounced ... He just did not want to be with the Lakers, to point where I know Luke Walton was trying to text him and stay in touch with him... and Randle wasn’t even writing back. There was no falling out between them, that’s just where Julius was.”
On the surface, that seems like a perfectly fine reason to not bring a player back. Some might even feel that letting Randle go at his request is a good look for the Lakers, or shows how player-friendly they are. However, there’s a bit more to it than that.
Why did Randle want to leave the Lakers so badly? Was is because he was unhappy with the role he was going to have with the team going forward, or did he just see New Orleans as a more appealing situation? Those details matter, because if it’s the latter, the Lakers should try to see why he felt that way, and if they can avoid other players feeling the same way.
It also bears repeating that the Lakers didn’t have to renounce Randle. He was a restricted free agent, meaning Los Angeles could have matched any offer sheet for him last summer and Randle would have had to deal with it.
Sure, Randle might have been disgruntled initially, but would he really have wasted a whole season? Especially given that if Randle showed the same growth in Los Angeles that he’s showing New Orleans, it would have been hard for Lakers head coach Luke Walton to keep him out of the starting lineup. Remember: Randle started just five of his first 25 games with the Pelicans before being moved to the starting lineup this season.
Perhaps we’ll never know exactly what happened with Randle during his time in Los Angeles, but if one thing is clear, it’s that there’s no way for the front office to fully escape blame for letting the first piece of their ongoing rebuild go.