John Calipari focused on the fact that Julius Randle and James Young went to legendary NBA franchises when Randle was tabbed by the Los Angeles Lakers and Young by the Boston Celtics in Thursday night’s NBA Draft in Brooklyn. The Lakers have won 16 league titles. The Celtics have won 17. Not too shabby.
Even better for Randle and Young is that both franchises are in rare rebuild modes. Having shed the aging Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, Boston dropped to 25-57 last season, finishing fourth in the Atlantic Division, far out of the playoffs. With Father Time taking its toll, the Lakers were dead last in the Pacific, finishing 27-55.
Brad Stevens is in his second year as the Celtics’ coach. The former Butler Bulldog knew what he was getting into when he elected to leave Indianapolis for Beantown. He’ll be patient, and you can expect Young to be a major piece in Stevens’ plan. Plus, Danny Ainge has an affinity for Kentucky players. The Boston president was Rajon Rondo’s biggest fan when Rondo came out of UK. (More on Rondo later.)
Of the two franchises, the Lakers are in a greater state of flux. Kobe Bryant missed most of last season, but he should be ready for 2014-15. Bryant, at 35, is not the Kobe of old, however, and his huge contract could limit L.A.’s free agent flexibility. At press time, the Lakers don’t have a head coach.
Randle is the seventh UK player in the Calipari era to be drafted in the top 10. The Dallas native didn’t waste any time admitting that he thought he should have been drafted higher. Questions about his foot and the possibility of further surgery might have contributed to his slide. And there are questions about how Randle handles bigger opponents and whether he can consistently knock down a perimeter shot.
Still, it’s a great landing spot for a hard-working kid with a great smile. “A perfect spot,” ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said on Twitter. With the Lakers coming off their worst season in 50 years, Randle will get plenty of playing time, and La-La Land has the desire and resources to compete for titles.
By the way, No. 7 overall was the highest Lakers pick since 1982, when the team selected James Worthy. That didn’t work out too badly.
David McMenmin of ESPN Los Angeles wrote, “In particular, Randle turned heads with his tenacity in a game of one-and-one against Lakers assistant coach Mark Madsen, followed by two-on-two against members of the Lakers support staff.”
Indeed, having watched him for a full season, Randle competes. He’s a tenacious rebounder with great second-jump ability. As Jay Bilas said in last night’s telecast, he needs to work on a mid-range jumper to complement his inside game.
The other interesting UK sidelight to Thursday night’s draft involved the Celtics. Boston took Oklahoma State guard Marcus Smart with its No. 6 overall pick, immediately fueling speculation that the Celtics would deal Rondo.
But in the post-draft presser, Ainge gave a firm “yes” when asked whether the franchise was moving forward with Rondo.
“I think (Smart and Rondo) can play together,” said Stevens in the press conference.
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