In July, Julius Randle stunned a lot of Los Angeles Lakers fans when he rejected the team’s qualifying offer and decided to sign with the New Orleans Pelicans as a free agent. While the Lakers’ prospects are looking brighter than they have in the last five years, thanks mainly to the addition of four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, Randle was a key contributor to the team and had posted career-best numbers in multiple statistical categories in 2017-18. However, in a recent interview, the 23-year-old forward/center described that final season with the Lakers as the most difficult in his basketball career.
Speaking to the Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears in an interview published on Thursday, Randle explained why he chose the Pelicans over “at least” 25 other NBA teams that showed interest in him when he briefly entered the free agent market this summer. According to Randle, New Orleans appealed to him the most because the Pelicans made him feel “wanted,” and because he felt that his playing style would mesh with head coach Alvin Gentry’s preference for a fast-paced offense. As noted by the Undefeated, Randle’s path to the Pelicans was more or less confirmed when it became obvious DeMarcus Cousins, who eventually signed with the Golden State Warriors as a free agent, wouldn’t return for the 2018-19 season.
Talking about why he considered the 2017-18 NBA season to be the most challenging he ever played in, Julius Randle said that he was dealing with the persistent rumors of the Los Angeles Lakers’ plans to court would-be free agents LeBron James and Paul George in the offseason. According to Randle, things had become so “toxic” that he deleted his phone’s social media apps so he wouldn’t be bothered by the rumors.
“It was my hardest [season] by far in my life. Everything was bothering me from the basketball standpoint. I felt like there were issues that were out of your control. I am a person that likes to control the narrative.
“I just had to grow up. I can’t worry about things I can’t control and let it affect my happiness.”
From Hollywood to The Big Easy: @J30_RANDLE winding road. The @PelicansNBA new power forward discusses his time with the @Lakers, influence from his mentors and @kobebryant and playing with Anthony Davis and dealing with the rumors in New Orleans. https://t.co/ZiJ7CRgWYF #NBA
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) September 27, 2018
While Randle clarified that he wasn’t too bothered by the “Lakers stuff,” he admitted that he felt “hurt” when the Lakers sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers before the 2018 trade deadline, in a move to clear up salary cap space for potential free agent signings.
Despite the challenges he faced, Randle still averaged a career-high 16.1 points in the 2017-18 season, adding eight rebounds and 2.6 assists per game and starting at power forward or center in most of the games he played. Now that he’s with the New Orleans Pelicans on a two-year, $18 million contract, Randle told the Undefeated that he is looking forward to playing alongside the likes of Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, and Nikola Mirotic and hopefully contending for the NBA championship with his new team.
“I want to compete for a championship. I’m saying, ‘Why not?’ We are talented from top to bottom. You saw what those guys did last year in the playoffs. I feel like I can add to that,” said Randle.