James Worthy helps Lakers rookie Julius Randle through recoveryadmin August 26, 2020 0 COMMENTS
After all, former Lakers forward Bob McAdoo offered the same treatment to Worthy shortly after his injury.“I knew he was up because I was up,” Worthy said of Randle. “I knew how I felt that night. You feel alone and you feel like you’re never going to be able to play the same again.”It turns out plenty offered Randle support. Kobe Bryant also phoned Randle, sharing his perspective about returning from injuries to his left Achilles tendon and left knee that limited him last season to six games. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak and trainer Gary Vitti visited Randle. Family members and close friends did, too. But Worthy’s late-night phone call remains distinguishable namely because his rookie season somewhat mirrored Randle’s. Incidentally, the Lakers selected Randle from the University of Kentucky seventh overall in the 2014 NBA draft, the franchise’s highest draft pick since 1982 when the Lakers used their No. 1 pick on Worthy after starring at North Carolina.“James really helped me,” Randle said. “He was saying he sees himself so much in me. It’s crazy that we had the same injury. I don’t even think mine was to the extent of his. His was a little worse and he broke the same bone. But his was more complicated.”The timing of Worthy’s injury differed, too. Randle went through training camp, averaging 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 20.9 minutes in eight exhibition games. Meanwhile, Worthy played 77 regular-season games and averaged 13.4 points and 5.2 rebounds on 57.9 percent shooting, a mark that ranked first among all rookies that season.But on April 10, 1983, Worthy landed awkwardly on his left leg after a failed putback attempt in the third quarter against Phoenix at the Forum. The defending-champion Lakers weren’t the same, falling in a four-game sweep to Philadelphia in a Finals rematch.“When I hurt my leg, I remember Magic Johnson standing over me and saying, ‘Not now! Not before the playoffs!’” recalled Worthy, still shaking his head about his shortened rookie season. “It took me five months to get back. But I was just starting to jell with the team.” So was Randle. Lakers coach Byron Scott may have often offered biting criticism about Randle’s conditioning, court awareness and effort. But the Lakers became intrigued with Randle’s versatility that entailed potential as a bruiser, mid-range jump shooter and ball handler, qualities that Worthy likened to Hall of Fame forward Charles Barkley. The NBA may have granted the Lakers on Monday a $1.5 million disabled player exception to because of Randle’s injury. But that the Lakers’ ability to acuire a player through free agency or through trade that dollar amount hardly replaces Randle’s presence.Worthy also became impressed with Randle’s eagerness to learn after working with him and the Lakers’ other frontcourt players occasionally in practice. Worthy predicted Randle would have become “really effective” by February 2015. “He’ll recover fully,” Worthy predicted. “He’s receptive to taking instructions.”That included Worthy offering various tidbits during his late-night phone conversation. He sympathized with Randle. Worthy suggested studying three frontcourt players he admires throughout the 2014-15 season and to take college courses after completing only his freshman year at Kentucky.Worthy also cited his own journey that entailed completing a Hall of Fame resume with three NBA championships, one Finals MVP and a retired No. 42 Lakers jersey.“I like Randle. He’s a good kid and receptive,” Worthy said. “That’s why I felt obligated to call.” When the Lakers (1-5) visit the Memphis Grizzlies (6-1) on Tuesday night at FedEx Forum, Randle will stay in Los Angeles immobilized in a cast while using crutches. So as Randle fell after driving through the lane midway through the fourth quarter against the Rockets, Worthy’s insight as a studio analyst for Time Warner Cable SportsNet went beyond X’s and O’s.“When I saw him go down, it didn’t look like anything,” Worthy said. “But I knew it was something.”Shortly after critiquing the Lakers on their cable network, Worthy soon helped them. He tracked down Randle’s phone number from a Lakers official and called him at 1 a.m.At that point, Worthy could tell Randle still felt groggy from pain medication. But he sensed the immediate encouragement would temporarily stop Randle’s pain and permanently shape his attitude hours before having surgery. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error All the flashbacks crept into James Worthy’s mind, 31-year-old memories becoming fresh again as he watched Julius Randle clutch his broken right leg in agony.Worthy could feel Randle’s pain. Worthy fractured his left tibia his rookie year with the Lakers late in the 1982-83 season and missed the playoffs.Randle fractured his right tibia in the Lakers’ season-opening loss two weeks ago to Houston and will stay sidelined the rest of his 2014-15 rookie season.