Some call Las Vegas “adult Disney World”.
For Reggie Bullock, Las Vegas Summer League is his version of Disney World in a gym.
“As a whole, I feel like [summer league] is like a big AAU tournament,” Bullock explains. “It’s just like guys that you’ve seen in high school, throughout college. You just feel like everyone is down at Disney World or something.”
So if summer league, like AAU in a bunch of ways, is a glorified tryout – and not just a series of pickup games – then that means role definition is of the utmost importance. And for one of the Clippers’ newest point guards, Jerome Randle, a role might be the difference between playing in the NBA and playing overseas in the upcoming season.
Randle spent last year playing in both China and Belgium. He’s danced around the world after his career at California, playing a game of basketball musical chairs and making pit stops in Turkey, Israel, and both the Orlando and Vegas summer leagues along the way. But for the 26 year old, it’s finally time to find someone – anyone – to give him a home. And the Clippers might just be that someone.
“It’s been tough for me,” expresses an unfeigned Randle. “It’s been two and a half years, going on three years. Coming out of college, the accolades and things that I had, I felt like I should’ve been [in the NBA]. I don’t know, man. I’m just hoping that this time around, someone will give me a shot.”
Through two summer league games, Randle has looked impressive in a Clipper uniform, averaging 5.0 points and 5.5 assists in his 18.5 minutes per contest off the bench. But with Randle, it’s no so much about the numbers as it is the comfort. With summer league, it all comes back to roles. Diminutive people can fit into small places and the 5-foot-10 Randle is trying to show that he slots into a niche that he hasn’t before.
“I know I can score the basketball. I think a lot of people know me as being a scorer, but they want to see me run the team. I had a little bit too many turnovers, but I was really happy about my assists, my decision making.”
Randle is right. He can score. We saw that when he shot 50 percent from the field and 46 percent from three as a junior at Cal. We saw that when he averaged 16.8 points per game and shot 52 percent from the field in Belgium this past season. We saw that every time a defender went under a screen and he would release a quick jumper only to swish the bottom of the net without touching any metal. But now, Randle isn’t shooting at will when defenders run under screens. He’s eyeing his teammates often and always.
“I’m just looking to make guys around me better and make them happy they’re playing with me…Even the turnovers that I had, they knew I was trying to get them the ball.”
Whether it’s said explicitly or not, Randle is potentially competing with Maalik Wayns for the right to make the Clipper roster. Wayns, who has also played well, is the bigger, younger guard and has already found a cozy bed underneath Chris Paul’s wing. But even with that working for him, Wayns is in a similar position to Randle. He doesn’t have an overwhelming amount of NBA experience, but he’s a smart guard that knows the role he needs to play to make the roster.
But two games into Las Vegas Summer League, Randle has a shot to make the Clippers’ roster. It might be an outside shot. It might not be encouraging to leave the Thomas and Mack Center, head down to one of the 122 casinos in Vegas, and place a bet on Randle’s fortune. But he has a shot. And for now, that’s all Randle can ask for.