LOS ANGELES — After Los Angeles Lakers rookie Julius Randle left his NBA debut strapped to a wheeled stretcher with a broken right leg, every player at Staples Center gained a sober perspective on the season opener.
James Harden scored 32 points, Dwight Howard added 13 points and 11 rebounds before getting into an exchange with Kobe Bryant, and the Houston Rockets spoiled Bryant’s return to the Lakers with a 108-90 victory over Los Angeles on Tuesday night.
Bryant’s comeback game and the Lakers’ return from a 55-loss season went from bad to miserable when Randle broke his right leg in the fourth quarter. The seventh overall pick out of Kentucky collided with two Rockets under the basket and landed awkwardly, collapsing to the court in agony.
After his own Lakers debut ended somberly, coach Byron Scott described the scene as “heartbreaking.”
“The last three or four minutes, obviously we weren’t thinking a whole lot about basketball,” Scott added. “We were just thinking about Julius, and hoping he’s OK.”
Randle’s injury cast a pall over the night for the Lakers, who are banking on the 19-year-old power forward to become a solid player — perhaps their next star. His right leg was immobilized before his teammates lifted him onto the stretcher — obvious pain on his face — with Bryant squeezing his hand.
“We’ll help him through this, and he’ll come back a better basketball player,” Bryant said. “That’s the goal, is to try to find a silver lining in this. He’ll use the time to come back and be stronger.”
Thumbnail photo via Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports Images