Julius Randle likens new Knicks PG Jalen Brunson to Lonzo Ball

Jalen Brunson, Knicks

New York Knicks‘ starting power forward Julius Randle looks rejuvenated ahead of the season opener on Wednesday. His preseason play showed promising signs that this season would be different from the passive-aggressive Randle we saw last season.

He has constantly praised Jalen Brunson in the training camp and preseason. The arrival of Brunson, Randle’s best point guard since Lonzo Ball, has a stabilizing effect on the Knicks forward, who is looking to recapture his 2020-21 All-Star form.

“At least in my personal time in this league, it’s probably about as easy a fit, at least from the point guard position that I’ve seen. Another one was Lonzo Ball when I played with him in Los Angeles [during] his first year [with the Lakers]. He was pretty easy to play with from the start. But Jalen’s been great from Day 1.”

Jullius Randle I Knicks Sunday post-practice media availability

Randle’s best shooting year in the NBA coincided with Ball’s rookie season. During the 2017-18 season, Randle shot 55.8 percent from the field over 82 games, mainly operating inside the arc.

While Randle only shot 43 percent in four preseason games, he was scoring and making plays within the flow of the Knicks’ offense. There was a noticeable decrease in his isolation plays. He was making much quicker decisions, giving up the ball and constantly moving.

“I think [Randle] made a conscious effort. We talked about him that people are obviously loading up onto him pretty good. So we try to use more of his versatility to get some easier baskets and use him in different ways but also for everyone, to create movements to open up the floor and make quicker decisions. He’s at his best when he plays like that.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau I Knicks Sunday post-practice media availability

Randle’s newfound style came from his EuroBasket summer crash course courtesy of his friend and fellow-Texas native Zach LeDay, who is playing in Serbia with Partizan Belgrade.

“I just see the NBA taking a lot of concepts from them on how the game is being played. [LeDay] was just showing me stuff that they do, players at my position, how they play and stuff like that. Just learning any way I can. Learn and try to improve and take little bits from [them].”

Julius Randle I Knicks Sunday post-practice media availability

Randle’s new habits and Brunson’s unselfishness have mixed well together, creating great chemistry that was lacking in the Knicks’ starting unit last season.

Through four preseason games, the Knicks’ starters have a combined plus-78.3 net rating.

“I think you’re seeing the impact that Jalen (Brunson) has had on our team and particularly with the starters. Those guys are playing really well together. Very unselfishly, all of them.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau I Knicks-Wizards Postgame via MSG Network

The big picture question mark for the Knicks is: can Randle can sustain this style of play throughout the regular season?

Brunson holds the key. His calming influence is a stark contrast to Thibodeau’s yelling style from the sidelines.

“I would say my style of leadership is unique. It’s not necessarily you yell at guys or tell them to do certain things. You have to know them; know your audience, who you are talking to, and how to relay the message. The coach is always going to say something. He’ll probably yell at you, but how will I relay the message to the rest of the team without the yelling part?”

Jalen Brunson via MSG Network

With Brunson entering his prime, Randle is in much more capable hands than Lonzo Ball’s rookie version, which bodes well for a Knicks team seeking to return to the playoffs.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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