The Knicks will take on LeBron James and the Lakers in Los Angeles on Tuesday night, and Julius Randle knows very well what it feels like to be part of the roaring Staples Center atmosphere. But this time, he'll be on the other side.
Randle spent his first four seasons in the NBA with the Lakers after they drafted him out of Kentucky in the 2014 NBA Draft. And even though he is no longer donning the purple and gold, Randle is still very fond of his time with the Lakers.
"The fans were always amazing here. I got drafted here, so it's going to always hold a special place in my heart," he said after Knicks practice on Monday.
Despite trending upward and showing progress each season, the Lakers decided to move on from Randle after the 2017-18 season. And that came after averaging the most amount of points in his career to date (16.1), and shooting a career best 55.8 percent from the field over a full 82-game season.
"You find out pretty quick coming in it's a business," he said.
Randle moved on to the Pelicans, and had an even better season with 21.4 points per game with 8.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists averaged as well. When he returned to the Staples Center to face his former Lakers squad, he went on to drop 35 points, his second-highest total of the season.
"I had that last year when I came here, if you want to call it a revenge game or whatever, I had like 35 [points] or something like that," Randle recalled. "But the energy was great, it's never been an energy of the fans booing me or hating me."
In this return, Randle will be seeing one of his former Pelicans teammates in Anthony Davis, who has truly found his niche in LA. He's loving life with James and the rest of the Lakers, and it's something Randle is happy to see.
He just hopes the seamless chemistry they've showed so far this season has a hitch against his squad.
"Absolutely. Anybody that I play with I always keep up with," Randle said of Davis. "I root for him -- not going to be rooting for him tomorrow obviously -- but I always root for him and extremely happy for him being in a situation where he's having great success."
Randle wouldn't budge when asked if he wanted to be a Laker long-term, saying that the situation just wasn't right for him to stay. Right now, they're a heavy contender to win the Western Conference and reach the NBA Finals, but Randle won't dwell on what another team is doing. He's loving life on the east coast with the Knicks in New York, and that will continue to stay that way.
"Honestly, I don't get into what-ifs and all that kind of stuff. It worked out how it was supposed to and I'm happy where I'm at now. Everything in life happens for a reason, you go through things for a reason. It made me the person I am today and I'm extremely happy to be a Knick."