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Randle's rookie season a bump in the road

Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

Julius Randle feared his leg was going to break.

A small bump had developed on his right leg a few months after the Los Angeles Lakers selected him seventh overall in the 2014 NBA draft, one he said caused an "achy, sharp pain."

"'Man, this ain't right,'" Randle said he told himself at the time. "If I don't figure out what this is, I'm going to break my leg.'"

He was right. In his first NBA game, Randle drove to the basket midway through the fourth quarter and prepared to launch his 6-foot-9, 250-pound frame off his right foot.

Then his foot buckled.

Randle collapsed, but he didn't writhe in pain or scream or cry. He just sat there -- his tibia fractured, his season over after 14 minutes of playing time, his face empty of emotion.

"I wasn't in any initial shock or anything," he said. "I knew exactly what happened."

The bump on Randle's leg appeared before training camp for the 2014-15 season -- around late August or early September, he recalled.

"I may have hit it against the bed or something," he said he told Lakers trainers.

"We'll keep an eye on it," he said they told him.

He felt the pain off and on for a couple of weeks, but nothing so bad that he said he couldn't play on it.

Randle said he didn't receive much treatment for it, and, about two weeks before the season began, he said it no longer hurt at all.

"And then when I broke it, I was like, dang, I wonder what happened -- maybe that played a role?" he said.

Randle had a screw placed into his right foot as a high school senior, and reports leading into the 2014 draft indicated that he may have needed another surgery to fix it. (He would indeed have it, but not until January 2015.) But nothing appeared odd during the play in which he broke his leg.

So Randle searched for answers and wondered about the bump, especially when an X-ray after his injury revealed what the team called a "stress reaction," a precursor to a stress fracture but without the actual break. (A stress reaction is often caused by repetitive impacts to the bone that lead its structure to begin breaking down.)

Though it's hard to say exactly why Randle broke his leg, a Lakers spokesman said it was thought that the stress reaction is "likely what contributed to the break."

After a long and arduous rehab, Randle participated in an organized practice this week, his first since his injury, and is expected to play for the Lakers this Friday against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Las Vegas Summer League.

"I feel great, getting up and down," Randle said. "I feel more healthy than I did last year."

There is still a bump on his leg, though -- callus as hard as bone that formed as his injury healed. The area swells sometimes after he plays. He wears a pad to protect it.

But Randle said he doesn't have any nerves about whether his leg will hold up. He said he passed that mark a long time ago.

"The first time I got on the court, I was like, 'Man, it's weird,'" he said. "But after that, honestly and truly, I had my head down and just played. I haven't thought about it at all."