Lakers Hope Randle Can Return During Trip

After missing each of the Lakers’ last three games with a hip pointer, Julius Randle still isn’t sure when he will suit back up. However, head coach Luke Walton hopes that he will be back in the starting lineup at some point during Los Angeles’ upcoming four-game road trip.

After Monday’s practice, Randle expressed that he would rather take his time coming back from this injury than have it affect him later in the season.

“I don’t have to be pain-free; I’m just trying to figure a way around it,” Randle said. “The biggest thing is I don’t want it to get worse.

“It’s easy to play through injury, but I don’t want it to get worse and then affect us in the long run when we’re trying to fight for a playoff spot or seeding and I’m not there because I didn’t take care of a nagging injury 20 games into the season.”

Walton admitted that Randle’s injury has taken longer to recover from than initially expected. On Nov. 22, he tried to play through it against Oklahoma City, but shot just 1-of-5 with six turnovers in 21 minutes.

Now, Randle remains listed as questionable for Tuesday’s game in New Orleans after going through non-contact drills at practice.

“It’s still nothing that’s going to turn into a serious injury,” Walton said. “You just can’t play basketball if every time you cut you get a sharp pain. It’s just taking longer.”

Randle — who is averaging 13.3 points, a team-best 8.1 rebounds and 3.9 assists — described the injury as both a bone bruise and the muscle around it “spasming up.”

With him on the mend, Walton turned to Thomas Robinson to start at power forward on Sunday, and the first-year Laker rewarded him with nine points and eight rebounds in 15 minutes of L.A.’s win over the Hawks.

Walton isn’t sure if he will keep Robinson among the starters if Randle can’t play, instead saying that he plans to take a look at which players match up best against the Pelicans.

Regardless, he plans to try to keep each Laker fresh as the team will play four games in five nights on this trip to New Orleans, Chicago, Toronto and Memphis.

“We’ll keep an eye on the minutes because of the schedule and the back-to-backs and already being shorthanded,” Walton said. “But really it’s the cliche of one game at a time. … We got to go in there with the mind set of: We worry about tonight tonight and worry about the rest of the trip afterward.”