On opening night of the 2014-15 NBA season, there was so much hope in the air in the city of Los Angeles.
Kobe Bryant was back, a new season had begun and Julius Randle, the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft, was to take the court in his first game as a professional basketball player. That hope and excitement, however, would be short-lived. Not only did the Lakers get blown out by the Houston Rockets in their home-opener, but Randle didn’t even leave the court on his own two feet — he left on a stretcher.
While attacking the basket in the fourth quarter, Randle went up to pass the ball and came down awkwardly on his leg, falling to the ground. He didn’t get back up.
After an examination, it was determined that he had suffered a broken leg. Later, the official diagnosis came out as a fractured right tibia. The amount of time he is expected to miss has not been released. The former Wildcat was immediately put on a stretcher and taken to the nearest hospital.
As he was carried off, Bryant gave Randle’s hand a squeeze. The looks on the faces of the rest of his teammates, head coach Bryan Scott and the silent fans around the stadium said it all. The 19-year-old scored just 2 points in his NBA debut and played for 14 minutes. While big things were expected of the rookie, it was obvious by his limited playing time that the Lakers were prepared to ease him into his role on the team.Even so, the injury is a significant blow to a franchise trying to get back to the Finals.
Randle was a member of the 2013 Kentucky team that lost in the championship game to the University of Connecticut. He averaged 15.0 points and 10.4 rebounds for the season. He was also a member of the AP All-SEC First Team and named as an AP Third-team All-American.
Terrence Jones, a member of the Rockets and another former Wildcat, put up a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds in the opening game of his third season in the league. The University of Kentucky had 19 former players on NBA rosters on opening night, leading all other schools.