Knicks 1-2 punch: Julius Randle credits Jalen Brunson for making life easier

Julius Randle, Jalen Brunson, New York Knicks
Nov 4, 2022; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) with guard Jalen Brunson (11) against the Philadelphia 76ers in the second quarter at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks resurgent forward Julius Randle is playing with a different groove, much more efficient than his All-Star, All-NBA season in 2021.

A lot of that he credits to his new point guard, Jalen Brunson.

Brunson returned from a three-game absence due to a hip injury and produced 24 points, six assists, and four rebounds in the Knicks’ rout of Chris Paul and the Devin Booker-less Phoenix Suns. Randle paced the Knicks with his 10th double-double in the last 11 games. He had 28 points on 18 shots, pulled down a game-high 16 rebounds, and dished out six assists for the second straight game.

“[Brunson returning] just opens the game a lot more. He takes the pressure off me.”

Julius Randle postgame via MSG Network

The Knicks’ new 1-2 punch has been playing beautiful music together, unlike last season’s failed experiment with Kemba Walker, when Randle was unable to create any semblance of chemistry with the oft-injured former four-time All-Star.

This season, the Knicks have gone as far as where Randle and Brunson are leading them.

Randle leads the Knicks in scoring (career-high 24.2 points) and rebounding (9.9), while Brunson is second in scoring (20.3 points) and paces the team in assists (6.5) and steals (1.0, tied with Immanuel Quickley).

“He’s one of the best teammates I’ve ever had. I can’t say enough [about] the chemistry and energy he brings to the locker room.” 

Julius Randle via NY Post

Another proof of that growing chemistry between the Knicks’ 1-2 punch is that they belong to the league’s top 10 most efficient pick-and-roll duos.

Together, they have led the Knicks to a stunning turnaround from a 10-13 start, on the brink of a major shakeup, to two games above .500 15 games later. Their current 20-18 record is tied for seventh to eighth in the Eastern Conference, just one game outside the top six almost halfway through the season.

As reliable as Brunson is, he is also as humble as he downplayed all the praises he’s receiving for Randle and the Knicks’ turnaround.

“I’m just doing my part. I want to be a great teammate, be a great friend, just try and help us win games.”

Jalen Brunson postgame via NY Post

And if the Knicks keep winning with Randle and Brunson at the helm, it will be too hard to ignore the team’s 1-2 punch when the coaches select the All-Star reserves.

Part of the calculation of Brunson’s move to New York from Dallas is the chance to become an All-Star. And as he gradually develops into one, he’s also reviving Randle’s All-Star form.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

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