In Julius Randle, Lakers Find Promising Bridge to Kobe’s Present, Lakers’ Future

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Like most of the prospects to come through the Lakers' practice facility for predraft workouts, Julius Randle was extremely happy to be there.

He even got into the Lakers' gym the night before his workout to get some shots up and walk—or float—across the Lakers logo at center court.

Randle called it "a humbling experience." He said seeing the purple and gold on the court "gave me chills."

He even described himself as "the biggest Laker fan" before adding…

"Probably more of a Kobe fan."

And therein lies a unique challenge ahead of the Lakers: maintaining the mighty brand of the franchise when so many from the younger generation identify the Lakers overwhelmingly with Kobe Bryant.

After the upcoming two years on his contract, Bryant will have carried the Lakers' torch for two full decades. It's not difficult math to determine that by then everyone younger than the drinking age in this country will have never known the Lakers without Kobe.

Randle is 19, meaning he is at least slightly ahead in years of life compared to Bryant's 18 years as a Laker.

Randle was the Lakers' choice Thursday night with the seventh pick in the NBA draft, and with that trust comes more than the usual amount of pressure. Not only must Randle contribute immediately as a polished power forward for what figures to be a thin roster next season, he must lead the shift toward the Lakers' post-Kobe life.

Dwight Howard didn't want to follow that act, and it remains to be seen which elite free agent, probably in 2015, is willing to embrace that challenge: join Bryant and then basically replace him.

Although Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged the Lakers' preparedness to offer a max contract next month to a free agent, don't mistake that for any expectation that the Lakers see some incoming player besides Randle right now poss...

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