Knicks’ Julius Randle receives MVP chants from MSG crowd

Julius Randle, New York Knicks
Jan 2, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) brings the ball up court in the first quarter against the Phoenix Suns at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a year makes.

At around this time last year, New York Knicks‘ former All-Star forward Julius Randle was in the midst of a disappointing season as boos became a regular occurrence leading to his infamous ‘thumbs down’ gesture. A year later, Randle is back in good graces.

The sold-out 19,812 Madison Square Garden crowd serenaded him with MVP chants as he led the Knicks to a massive win that snapped a nine-game losing skid against the Phoenix Suns on Monday.

Randle, the second-best scorer in the first quarter behind Luka Doncic in the opening quarters this season, continued his quick-fire starts with 11 points, eight rebounds, and two assists in the first 12 minutes to set the tone for the 102-83 rout.

“It’s good to be on the good side of The Garden.”

Julius Randle via ESPN’s Tom Bontemps

Randle completed his dominant performance with another monster double-double (28 points and 16 rebounds) with six assists. He picked up from where he left in the last month of the past year.

With Jalen Brunson and RJ Barrett slowed down by injuries, Randle carried the Knicks on his back in December, averaging 28.3 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.3 assists while shooting 47.8 percent from the field and 36.8 percent from deep.

Randle is shooting 46.9 percent overall for the season, his most efficient scoring since his one-and-done stint with the New Orleans Pelicans in the 2018-19 season. He’s averaging a career-high 24.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, and 3.8 assists through the Knicks’ first 38 games.

A big part of Randle’s resurgence is the arrival of Brunson, who is also playing an All-Star caliber season after signing with the Knicks last summer.

“Honestly, it’s a lot easier [to score this season]. I attributed a lot of that to Jalen (Brunson), obviously, Quick (Immanuel Quickley), and our guards. …I’m not having to work as hard to get buckets or score. So, the game is a lot easier on my body.”

Julius Randle postgame via MSG Network

But half of the equation is Randle remaking his game, playing with Eurostyle, and starting every game with meditation.

As Randle’s resurgence directly impacts the Knicks’ emergence as a playoff contender this season, returning to the All-Star game isn’t a far-fetched idea.

“Obviously, you work hard to put yourself in a position to do that. So it would be amazing [to play in the All-Star Game]. I love it. Not necessarily for me, obviously it is great, but I love it to be able to experience it with my family because they’re the ones that really make the true sacrifice and have led me to dedicate myself to the game the way I’ve been able to do in the summers and night in and night out.

So I love to be able to let them enjoy it and see the rewards of it and stuff like that. So that’s why it’s important. But for me, whatever the team needs night in and night out. Whatever it is, I just want to help the team [win].”

Julius Randle via MSG Network

Randle’s dramatic shift from the most hated Knick a season ago to an All-Star candidate is shaping to be one of the best storylines this season.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo