Lakers veteran confirms retirement plans - Julius Randle a big factor

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Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers have, in recent seasons, had to become accustomed to the sight of Kobe Bryant hobbling off the court or going down injured, such is the veteran star's battle to stay healthy.

What they may not have noticed, though, is the man Kobe Bryant is with when leaving the court. Gary Vitti has been around the Los Angeles Lakers for much longer than the Black Mamba - he joined the franchise in 1984 - and has been an integral part of their training staff ever since.

Retirement plans

That is all about to change however, after Vitti himself announced he plans to retire after the upcoming 2015-16 NBA season. It looks like Julius Randle played a pretty significant part in the decision, too.

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Currently in the position of head trainer at the Lakers, the veteran staff member has helped countless stars through all manners of injuries during his time in Los Angeles. 

His ability to keep big names such as Magic Johnson, Kobe, Shaq and Pau Gasol healthy has been a crucial behind the scenes role during the franchise numerous title runs over the past four decades.

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It is an injury to a recent Lakers recruit however, coupled with the general downturn in optimism around the Staples Center, which looks to have left Vitti in little doubt that now is the time to step away from such an important role.

Defining moment

According to LA Times reporter Mike Bresnahan, Vitti described the Lakers recent run of bad luck (on the treatment table and on the court) as a "nightmare" before offering an insight behind his decision to walk away.

"When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself," said the veteran trainer.

"That's the Laker way - you've got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person.

"The one that really affected me and maybe affected this decision (to retire) was Julius Randle."

"All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game (last season). That one really bothered me."

Winds of change

You can tell just how much the Lakers means to Vitti - how each injury hits him so hard - and losing his experience will be a blow to the franchise behind the scenes, especially considering the current transitional state the team finds themselves in.

Whether the trainer's long-time patient, Kobe Bryant, follows him out the door after next season remains to be seen. But one this is certain, the Lakers are heading for a number of big changes over the next 12 months or so, both on and off the court.

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