Four of the Lakers’ most vital players — Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle — have just completed the 68th contest of their first 82-game season.
Nance and Russell are rookies, while Clarkson didn’t receive steady minutes until halfway through last season and Randle played just 14 minutes of his rookie year.
But head coach Bryson Scott dismissed the idea of his players hitting the proverbial “rookie wall.”
“That’s two seasons in college basketball,” Scott said at Wednesday’s practice. “They could be tired, but everybody’s tired at this point in the season. That’s no excuse.”
Randle has played 41 games at Kentucky and with the Lakers over the past two years, but he says that this season hasn’t been too much of a grind.
“It’s different,” Randle said. “College season will last just as long, but it’s more practice than playing — obviously a lot more games (in the NBA). So it’s different in that sense, but the length of the season is kind of the same. My body feels better now than it did toward the end of college.”
Fortunately for the Lakers, their young players have seemed to get better with experience than worse with so many miles on their record.
The younger Lakers have received significantly more playing time since the All-Star break, as Los Angeles leads the league with 61.0 points per game from rookies and sophomores during this span.
“They’re young, they’re inexperienced,” Scott said. “They’re still trying to find their way. They’re still learning. All those things are true. As far as hitting a rookie wall, I don’t know. And I don’t use those types of excuses.”
Scott added that the one of the keys to enduring an NBA season is to take care of one’s body through rest and nutrition. Meanwhile, Randle is more concerned about locking in with his mind.
“The challenge is more (from) the mental aspect of coming to play every game,” Randle said. “You’ve got to be sharp mentally.”