The Los Angeles Lakers did much better in 2017-2018 than was the case last season. Despite not making the postseason, the team showed that they might be able to compete for a playoff spot in the near future.
Unlike teams from the last few seasons, the Lakers looked a lot more energetic on the hardwood. There was a certain flow to the way they played that was hard to not be encouraged by.
There was a definite difference in energy on the defensive side of the ball. Last year the Lakers were near the cellar of the NBA in defensive efficiency. However, in 2017-2018, Luke Walton’s group catapulted themselves into the top half of the league in that same area.
On that note, the Lakers really seemed to establish an identity that did not exist in the past. It was a promising sign for one of the younger squads the league has to offer.
Their efforts on defense benefited their offense on many occasions. From the get-go, the Lakers prided themselves on being a team that got quick baskets. Thus, the fact that defensive execution made that goal even easier says a lot about their makeup.
This execution largely derived itself from the cohesiveness of the younger players. The young Lakers’ core did not give up on one another, enabling the unit to blossom.
Big man Julius Randle certainly realized that and spoke about the Lakers’ closeness recently. As transcribed by Corey Hansford of Lakers Nation, Randle told The Woj Pod that communication allowed the team to mature.
“It’s tough for young players, the communication aspect. But we didn’t mind getting on each other, we didn’t mind communicating. Everybody brought something to the table, everybody believed in each other and trusted each other. That comes from communication. So it definitely was a chemistry that we all had. Guys grew up fast, for sure.”
The element of communication is not one that happens overnight. It requires intentional effort, and, without its presence, it becomes easy for dysfunction to arise. Thankfully for L.A., though, the latter was never a glaring issue.
As Randle puts it, “getting on each other” is necessary if improvement is going to occur. At the moment, the recipients may not always like being called out, but will tend to be grateful when the fruits start to come.
Certainly, Randle’s comments reveal a lot about the togetherness of the 2017-2018 roster. In spite of that, whether the team opts to keep the former Kentucky standout remains to be seen. This coming summer Randle will be a restricted free agent for the first time.
The Dallas native made an abundance of waves this season due to the way he played. The 6-foot-9 ballplayer was instrumental in creating the previously echoed identity, which says a lot about Randle’s work ethic.
In the past, Julius’ defense was often criticized because the opposition made him look foolish. He did not possess the agility and stamina to stay in front of ballhandlers.
His workout regime in the summer of 2017 changed that unsightly trend. He came into training camp in incredible shape, and the results were palpable.
It is important to remind fans, too, that the young man participated in every single game. The stability in that respect was crucial for a group that endured multiple injuries.
Therefore, it is somewhat weird that the notion of whether Randle will return is unknown. Many would contend that bringing him back is a no-brainer. The team and Julius’ representatives have not been seeing eye-to-eye with respect to contract negotiations, however.
This does not mean that the Lakers have completely moved on from Randle. Nevertheless, the disunity between both parties suggests that the team is being careful in exploring their options.
Because the purple and gold have plenty of money to spend this summer, the careful approach is understandable. Some of the league’s best will be on the market, so it will be up to the front office to determine whether Randle deserves a piece of the pie.