Throughout last several months, there has been much conversation centered LeBron James‘ possible free agency this upcoming summer. This persistent dialogue has primarily concerned the potential prospects of him making the leap to join the Los Angeles Lakers.
In line with that premise, the Lakers have already pushed forth an effort to free up cap space to position themselves to sign two max contract players. Much of that train of thought went with the notion that the team would part ways with fourth-year forward Julius Randle in order to make room to acquire players like James and Paul George in free agency around the remaining young talent.
However, Randle has progressive begun to change that narrative by his play on the court as he has further developed into a dependable player on a nightly basis. Since being inserted back into the starting lineup on Dec. 29, the 23-year-old has been averaging 18.6 points and 9.2 rebound per game. He has taken that up a notch since the All-Star break averaging a double-double with 21.2 and 10.2 rebounds on 59.7 shooting from the field in 10 games played.
This has heightened the conversation around the possibility that Randle could be in the Lakers’ future plans in the offseason as a restricted free agent. With that in mind, he voiced his desire to team up with James if he were to choose to come to Los Angeles, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
“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.
The chances of this scenario may have taken a huge step forward after the strong impression that Randle left on James in the last meeting at Staples Center this past weekend where he poured in a career-high 36 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. This includes scoring 19 points in the last 18 minutes of the contest in the Lakers’ blowout 127-113 win over the Cavaliers.
This also marked the first player since Kobe Bryant on March 23, 2008 to record at least 30 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists in a single game. In fact, he joins a short-list of players to do that feat that also includes Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, and Shaquille O’Neal.
Following the contest, James had some huge praise for Randle’s career-performance that led his team to a comfortable victory.
“Everybody’s had a hard time with him as of late,” James said last Sunday night.
With Randle continuing to play at a high level that shows much promise while the Lakers continue to rack up wins, it could lead to this possibility becoming realistic once the offseason comes around. Until then, there is much that could change in the next few months.
Bob Garcia IV
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