Julius Randle got a much-needed boost entering Game 2 of their first-round series against the Atlanta Hawks.
On Tuesday night, Randle won the Most Improved Player award via landslide. He earned 98 of the 100 first-place votes to become the first player in New York Knicks‘ history to win the award.
As expected, Julius Randle was the runaway winner for the Most Improved Player award. RJ Barrett got 2 3rd place votes.
— alder almo (@alderalmo) May 25, 2021
His son Kyden Randle presented him the award in a poignant scene after the team’s practice at The Garden.
Who better to present Julius with the award than the only and only, Kyden! 🏆 pic.twitter.com/bM2jlQGYEh
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 25, 2021
It was a validation of his best season yet that fast-tracked the Knicks’ timeline.
Randle averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.3 3s on 41.1 3-point clip — all career-highs. He just joined Hall of Famer and three-time NBA champion Larry Bird (1984-85) as the only players in the league history to average 20/10/5 on 40% shooting from three in a season.
“It’s an honor, just because of how I view the game in the sense of when the summertime comes, that’s really where I have the most fun,” Randle told Inside the NBA crew on TNT Tuesday night.
“I enjoy the process of getting better. I always say you look at the trajectory of my career like every year, I take a step forward to get better and improve my game. And that’s what I’m really proud of. I never want to feel like I’m standing in the same spot or not getting better. For me, I think this award just really embodies who I am as a person. As far as what I put towards the game, my work ethic, just the grind, just the process,” he added.
Randle also became the second player under Tom Thibodeau to win the award since Jimmy Butler during the 2014-15 season while still in Chicago. That turned out to be Thibodeau’s last year with the Bulls after losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers, 4-2, in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
A few years later, Thibodeau tried to work his magic on a young Minnesota Timberwolves team. But some of their young stars resisted his hard-coaching style. In New York, he found a Butler-type of player in Randle who embraced his hard coaching.
Randle thanked Thibodeau for empowering him from Day One and trusting him as the leader of this Knicks team. That, he said, gave him the extra motivation to dominate every night.
Now, more than ever, the Knicks need that Most Improved Player form from him on Wednesday night as they aim to tie the series. Randle had a sub-par game, missing 17 of his 23 shots to finish with just 15 points in a two-point loss.
Shaquille O’Neal coaxed him to slow down and let the game come to him during his interview.
“The adrenaline was going. I was hyped,” said Randle as the Madison Square Garden rocked on Sunday night in the Knicks’ first playoff game in eight years.
“It was rocking from the beginning. The energy was crazy. Shaq says, slow down, but it was hard, man! You know, the adrenaline was going crazy. By the time the second half came, I was done. My energy was crashed,” Randle said.
With his baptism of fire in the playoffs now already behind him, Randle is now ready to walk through that fire.
“Even though we lost, it was a learning experience. Just to know that we have the energy of the city. The support of the city and the way they were cheering for us is amazing. So we’ll be sure ready for the next one,” Randle added.
Randle has had 10 sub-par games in the regular season, where he scored 15 points or below. He rebounded every time with a big game averaging 28.5 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 6.0 assists, per Tommy Beer of Forbes Sports. The Knicks went 6-4 in the games following a Randle sub-par performance.
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