Even with the Los Angeles Lakers winning four of their last five games, this recent run of good form still came right after the team was officially eliminated from playoff contention with their March 22 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. And with the team failing to make the postseason despite the arrival of LeBron James last summer, multiple outlets have taken a deeper dive into what went wrong in the Lakers’ 2018-19 season. This includes ESPN, which, among other revelations, claimed on Sunday that Los Angeles did not even try to re-sign big man Julius Randle, who ended up moving to the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2018 offseason.
In his analysis of how the Lakers ended up “wasting” James’ first year with the team, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin took a look at multiple roster moves that were considered questionable in light of the franchise’s disappointing performance in the 2018-19 season. One such roster move involved Randle, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft who began to emerge as a force in the 2017-18 season after the Lakers began to give him a more defined role with the team.
Despite his improved numbers, Randle became an “afterthought” as Los Angeles began their pursuit of James, as noted by McMenamin. According to sources familiar with the situation, the 24-year-old forward/center never got an offer from the Lakers in the summer of 2018, even as the team held his rights as a restricted free agent, with head coach Luke Walton and his staff also preferring to keep the former University of Kentucky big man around for the coming season.
According to ESPN’s McMenamin, the Lakers’ decision not to offer Julius Randle a new contract led the player’s agent, Aaron Mintz of CAA, to “navigate” the youngster to the Pelicans, who signed him to a two-year, $18 million contract.
“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.”
With Randle headed to New Orleans, the Lakers reportedly used the money they “theoretically could have offered” to him on re-signing shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and acquiring free agent point guard Rajon Rondo, both on one-year contracts. McMenamin added that this was all taking place around the same time that Oklahoma City Thunder forward/guard Paul George, who was once considered a lock to sign with the Lakers in free agency, didn’t even meet with Lakers management, instead opting to sign a new long-term deal with the Thunder.
Separately, SBNation’s Silver Screen and Roll cited a previous report from McMenamin’s ESPN colleague, Ramona Shelburne, who recently wrote that Randle had “asked to be renounced” and “just did not want to be” in Los Angeles. She added that it had come to a point where Randle wasn’t even replying to Walton’s text messages, as the coach tried to “stay in touch” with him during the offseason.
Despite the controversy regarding his departure from the Lakers, Randle has been enjoying a career-best campaign since moving to the Pelicans, even with the team also out of the playoff race this season. As shown on his Basketball-Reference page, Randle is averaging a career-high 21.1 points, along with 8.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 71 games for New Orleans.