Knicks’ Julius Randle drops heartfelt words for Kemba Walker, and it’s beautiful

Alexander Wilson

The New York Knicks brought newfound energy on Saturday afternoon against the Atlanta Hawks, holding them to just 87 points and scoring 101 of their own. The past few weeks for the Knicks have been bumpy, losing a string of games and watching half the team hit the NBA health and safety protocols list. A number of players contracted the Covid virus and left the team thin, trying to fight off competitive opponents despite the lack of depth.

Power forward Julius Randle was asked to step up and fill the void, which he did valiantly despite the team dropping a few games. However, the most dramatic return was that of Kemba Walker’s, proving to Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks’ coaching staff that he was deserving of being in the lineup after being benched for nine games after a loss to the Phoenix Suns on November 26.

Walker has elevated the team lately with an incredible string of games since his return. He has posted double-digit points in four consecutive contests, including a triple-double against the Hawks on Saturday. The biggest difference was Julius realizing that he has to play off Kemba and not try to force isolation moves. If he can complement Kemba’s strengths, the Knicks will turn the corner.

The veteran point guard isn’t just offering an offensive masterclass, but he’s also a leader on a team that desperately needs an outspoken individual to take charge. After Saturday’s win, Randle was asked how important Walker is to the team, in which he offered a heartfelt message to those who were wondering about the team’s chemistry and positivity.

“Man, he’s honestly like, he’s the heart and soul of our team. We talk about it all the time, it’s me and him, the team will go as we go. If we come to the game and bring energy, we fight, we compete, everybody else is going to do it too. He’s been doing a great job every night coming out, leading us, bringing energy, and just going every game. He means a lot to our team for sure.

Randle is spot on, the team will only go as far as their veteran players take them. The second team picking up the slack is simply unsustainable, so they need the starting five to produce against better teams. Atlanta was missing several players, including All-Star Trae Young, who burned the Knicks in the postseason last year.

New York won’t complain about the win, though, having been subject to Covid issues themselves over the past few weeks. Randle himself has also been productive lately, stringing together six consecutive games with double-digit point production.

With the front office gifting Randle a four-year, $117 million extension, they need him to be at the top of his game and leading with action. After a strong start of the season, Randle seems to be back in a groove, averaging 20.4 points and 43.2% shooting from the field in the month of December.

The Knicks will look ahead to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday as their next opponent, who recently learned that D’Angelo Russell was subject to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He will miss the game, giving New York an advantage.