Embattled New York Knicks star Julius Randle finally spoke to reporters following Friday’s shootaround in Milwaukee after he wasn’t made available again Wednesday night in the postgame of an ugly loss in Miami.
Amid swirling rumors that he could be made available for the right return, Randle reiterated his commitment to the Knicks. He would be available to be traded by Feb. 3. But if he has his way, he would like to remain as a Knick.
“I wouldn’t change it,” Randle said via Newsday. “I still want to be a part of it. I still want to see this thing through. I still want to be a part of helping, trying to bring a championship to the Knicks.”
“So, I’m not going to be happy and be all about it when things are good and just because it’s not necessarily going the way I want it to or the team wants it to run and hide. I’m still behind this. I’m still sticking it through.”
Randle’s statement came on the heels of former Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy’s damning observations about how the Knicks’ season was spiraling after an inspiring playoff run last year.
“They just need major changes,” Van Gundy said on the ESPN broadcast during Wednesday’s game between the Knicks and the Heat. “They don’t bring it on a nightly basis. I’m talking [about] the starting unit.”
“There’s been plenty of times throughout the year to show that they work well together. I just don’t know how they continue on like this. That’s the definition of insanity, which is seeing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”
Randle set the tone for one of the worst starting units in the league. The Knicks’ starting lineup of Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Randle, and Mitchell Robinson has a -15.4 net rating, per NBA advanced stats. The lottery-bound Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Detroit Pistons are the only teams who have worse starting lineups.
Randle has turned from an All-NBA player to one of the worst high-volume shooters in just one season.
From phenomenal to abysmal.
Magnifying his down year is his poor body language on the court, which Van Gundy criticized during the broadcast. The former Knicks coach turned TV analyst doubled down on his observations when he guested on The Michael Kay Show on Thursday.
“He doesn’t have the requisite juice right now to be the best player on a really good team,” Van Gundy said.
Van Gundy said he’s watched 35 full Knicks games this season and wasn’t only basing his observations on the embarrassing loss to the Heat alone.
Randle’s poor play on the court spilled into unnecessary off-court drama with his run-ins with the fans and the media. He was fined $25,000 for using profane language in a media interview in describing his thumbs-down sign to the crowd earlier this month. The Knicks did not make him available for the subsequent postgame interviews and received a $25,000 fine.
Van Gundy took exception to Randle’s no-show in postgame interviews and referenced Knicks legend Patrick Ewing, the star of his team in the 90s, who was always available to the media after great wins and even after heartbreaking losses.
“That’s your job as the best player. When you accept that responsibility and the money, there are things that come along with that — accepting his responsibility to go out and answer the questions that the media poses. And you don’t even have to like it. You don’t even have to like the media. That’s not even the point,” Van Gundy said.
“The point is, it’s part of your job description. And you can’t go out there after when they praise you, and after wins where you’re getting all the praise and soak it in and then not go to that same [press conferences] and take some of the heated, pointed questions that are going to come your way. You got to do both.”
Randle’s career season last year prompted the Knicks to reward the 27-year old first-time All-Star to a four-year extension worth $117 million. So far, Randle hasn’t lived up to the expectations that came with the sizable contract.
“So, when you look at Randle, I think what you have to try to determine if you’re the Knicks: is this year an aberration or was last year an aberration for [Randle]? And you never know how people react when they sign big contracts, if they feel more pressure or if they don’t feel as much pressure,” Van Gundy said. “That’s why there’s always trepidation when you’re giving out a monster contract in any sport off a one really, really great year.”
Randle is averaging 18.7 points, his lowest since the 2017-18 season. His three-point shot has fallen off 10 percent from his career-high 41-percent clip last season. Across the board, his numbers are down.
With the Randle drama weighing down on the Knicks, are they better off parting ways? When asked if this is the beginning of the end for Randle in New York, Van Gundy rattled off things that a leader does to galvanize a struggling team.
“I think it’s too early to say it’s the beginning of the end. Maybe he has it in his power. He has the power to turn it around,” Van Gundy said. “It starts with energy, intensity, and passionate play. And that means through rough times.”
“If you’re Randle like you have to, you have to inspire and unite the group. You’ve got to take responsibility and bring people with you, whatever that means. Does that mean running the floor harder, defending harder, rebounding, moving the ball quicker, whatever it takes. That’s your job as the best player to make the group that you’re starting both halves with to function better.”
Randle sounded like he listened to Van Gundy’s rants when he faced the media on Friday ahead of a tough game against the defending champion Bucks.
“It’s been hard, but like my man J. Cole says, there’s beauty in the struggle,” Randle said. “It’s a struggle. We’re trying to figure it out. But this is really where you find out what people are about. This is when you find out about the character of the guys on your team, so I’m excited about — we still got a lot of games to play, so I’m excited to see how we push forward and push past it.”
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo