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The human touch

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Julius Randle eager to thrive with Lakers’ support

first_imgThe blank stare on Julius Randle’s face told the entire story.Sweat dripped down his forehead like a running faucet. Randle accentuated his grunting sounds with every move he made. Once he finished running, Randle hunched over, the strain of the Lakers’ physically exhausting training camp fully emerging.“It was tough,” Randle said following a recent practice. “But it wasn’t too bad. I’ve been preparing for this throughout the summer.”Yet, the Lakers’ seventh overall pick from this year’s draft has faced a sobering reality. No amount of preparation can ensure a smooth transition from posting a nation-leading 24 double-doubles in Randle’s lone season at the University of Kentucky toward thriving under a purple-and-gold backdrop. Randle entered the Lakers’ second preseason game on Thursday against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center playing behind 12-year veteran Carlos Boozer at power forward and competing for minutes with Ed Davis. Randle played this offseason on the Lakers’ Summer League team, in which he described his performances as only “OK,” partly because his 12.5 points per game came on only 41.9 percent shooting. The Lakers also echo Randle’s self-criticism about his conditioning, this issue becoming more overbearing than matching up against another bruising big man.“He has to work a lot harder than he probably anticipated,” Lakers coach Byron Scott said. “But he’s willing to do it. That’s the main thing.” That explains why the Lakers feel encouraged they can develop Randle in their own image. Randle grew up wanting to wear a Lakers uniform. He also idolized Kobe Bryant, frequently wearing his No. 8 Lakers jersey and buying nearly all of his Nike shoes. Yet, Bryant’s presence has not left Randle star struck. Nor has Randle shown any infatuation with the Lakers’ limelight. “Living in California is amazing,” said Randle, who recently threw out the first pitch at Dodger Stadium. “The lifestyle and the weather is beautiful. But I’m more concerned about being able to learn from a lot of greats everyday.” That starts with Bryant, who often invited Randle to work out with him this summer. But Randle also plans to seek advice from former Lakers forward and Time Warner Cable SportsNet analyst James Worthy, gushing about Worthy’s “versatility” during the Lakers’ Showtime Era. For now, Randle witnessed Bryant’s preparation entering his 19th NBA season in his quest to return from an injury-plagued 2013-14 campaign where he played only six games. “He has so much wisdom and it explains why he’s been playing for so long,” Randle said of Bryant. “I watched him so much as a kid. But now I just see how advanced he is. You know the only solution or answer to why he’s so advanced is you know he’s put in the work.”Bryant has encouraged Randle to do the same, providing what Randle has called “positive feedback” in unspecified areas. In the Lakers’ 98-95 preseason win on Monday over the Denver Nuggets, Bryant gave Randle a high-five after unsuccessfully running the offense with a mistimed pass. Bryant still encouraged Randle for expanding his game that also entailed powering inside for 10 points on 5-of-9 shooting and eight rebounds in 27 minutes. “My first year in the league was the year he was born. That’s insane,” Bryant said, though the 19-year-old Randle was actually born two years before Bryant started his NBA career in 1996. “With him, it’s all about his attention to detail. You have to question why things happen on the floor and think things through so you can come back the next day with a purpose.”The feedback Randle has received extends past Bryant. Boozer has publicly embraced becoming Randle’s mentor even if his development could eventually lead toward a diminished role for a second consecutive year. “He’s doing a good job of paying attention to what we’re doing and ask questions,” Boozer said. “When you give him advice, he takes it in. He’s very astute. This will makes him better a lot faster.”Randle also downplayed his bench role by deferring to Boozer’s experience. Randle also noted he had learned last season at Kentucky that his impact went beyond the box score because of persisting double teams.“It was pretty much a consensus around the country that no team would just let me beat them,” Randle said. “It definitely taught me how to affect the game in different ways with rebounding, steals, blocks, adding energy to the team and running the floor.”Perhaps easier said than done.Randle has eliminated fried food out of his diet. He has followed a strict routine outlined by the Lakers’ training staff that includes receiving constant ice water immersion, stretching and sleeping. Yet, Randle admitted he still struggles fighting his cravings for chocolate and adapting to the Lakers training staff promoting grass-fed foods. But as he demonstrated during a recent Lakers’ practice, Randle will continue to push, eager to prove the Lakers’ investment in him pays off.“Nobody is going to run those sprints for me,” Randle said. “Nobody is going to take those shots for me. It’s up to me.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

NFL training camp 2019: AFC South preview

first_imgTeam on the riseJacksonville JaguarsCalling the Jaguars a team on the rise two seasons after they made the AFC championship feels wrong, but there is no denying it’s right. There”s no denying the NFL is a quarterback-driven league, and it appears Jacksonville finally has a quarterback. Nick Foles signed four-year, $88 million deal with the team this offseason and will replace much-maligned Blake Bortles. Simply having a QB who can protect the ball will go a long way for the team’s defense and for getting Leonard Fournette some room to run.Team on the declineHouston TexansThere are several ways the Texans are on the rise. They added a couple of offensive linemen early in the draft, which should help the team protect quarterback Deshaun Watson. The young QB has another year under his belt, and younger defenders like Justin Reid should be primed to improve this season.But the team is in the middle of a contract disagreement with Jadeveon Clowney that might lead to a holdout. The offensive linemen the team drafted are a ways away from being great, plus the team let shutdown cornerback Tyrann Mathieu go for virtually nothing and they’ll go through the 2019 season without a general manager after firing Brian Gaine after one year running the team.Oh yeah, and Bill O’Brien still has issues with simple clock and game management. That’s a team that could easily decline.Rookies to watchJosh Allen, LB, Jaguars: As if the Jaguars didn’t already have enough pass-rushing talent, the Raiders and Giants passed on Allen who might have been the best player in college football with Kentucky last year. He’s going to make an already scary front seven for the Jaguars even more terrifying. Kahale Warring, TE, Texans: A former water polo player who really came into his own at San Diego State last year, Warring gives Watson a tight end who can finally scare a defense with his pass-catching and could be an intriguing part of the offense for the next several years.Player spotlightDarius Leonard Leonard completely changed the feel of the Colts defense as a rookie in 2018. He finished the season with 163 tackles, four forced fumbles and two interceptions and turned Indianapolis’ defense from one to be laughed at into one to be cautious about. His performance in 2019 could go a long way toward continuing to make the team’s defense better — or letting it regress back to where it was before. If he is what he was last year, then the Colts should continue to get better. If he’s not, then Andrew Luck will be pressing again on offense.Key injuriesAndrew Luck, calf: The Colts quarterback, who’ll be 30 in September, was forced to miss all of the team’s offseason workouts because of a lingering calf injury, but the team doesn’t seem too concerned about his long-term outlook. However, the Colts weren’t concerned about his shoulder either when he missed all of 2017. This could be something of concern — or it might not be. It’s just another part of the long-running concerns about Luck’s health that always seem to plague his career. NFL training camp 2019: AFC North preview All that leads to speculation that this division is up for grabs, and while there may not be a 13-win team in it in 2019, there may not be a team worse than .500 when all is said and done.Here’s the outlook for the AFC South heading into training camp: Related Newscenter_img NFL training camp 2019: AFC East preview The Texans won AFC South last season, but this division might be as competitive as it has been in a long time in 2019.Andrew Luck is back to his old self, the Jaguars added a quarterback who can throw the ball and the Titans seemed to find an identity in the running game last year.last_img read more