When the New York Knicks were without power forward Julius Randle for two games due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, they saw exactly how important he is to the team. The Knicks dropped both games to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors by 15 points, but they immediately started winning again once Randle returned with a vengeance as negativity brewed in the media.
Everything came to a peak when Randle was challenged after a buzzer-beater win from RJ Barrett against the Boston Celtics last Thursday. He cursed at the media and made negative gestures towards the fans mid-game, which has sparked a flurry of hate.
However, Randle is extremely important to the Knicks’ success, whether he’s scoring or not. Against the San Antonio Spurs on Monday night, Randle contributed just two points with a 14.3% field goal percentage. He did record 12 rebounds and a +16 +/-.
Many attacked Randle for his poor offensive outing, but his impact was clear as a defender. The truth is, Julius draws so much attention that his teammates are given more efficient opportunities to attack the basket. That is a primary reason RJ Barrett has been so efficient recently, scoring 31 points in the victory over the Spurs.
Tom Thibodeau comes to Julius Randle’s defense after a two-point outing against the Spurs on Monday:
Julius made some good reads. They were doing a lot of switching and coming from the baseline. When he sprays the ball out like that, good things, we are going to get good shots from that. Guys getting to their spots, that’s important for him so he has the outlets.
I just want him to play the game. The type of attention he is going to get because of who he is, look, if he gets the ball and there is a commitment they’re overloading to the strong side, right? They’re coming from the baseline. I want him to make the right play, I don’t want him to fight pressure with pressure. I don’t want him to try to split things, I just want him to hit the open man because we can play off that.
Randle has found himself getting caught up in madness with the fans and media, which is a losing recipe. When the veteran PF plays with energy and confidence, he is a dominant player worthy of the $117 million contract extension he signed this past off-season.
Based on the flow of his production in line with his confidence and mental state, you can see a clear correlation. Randle needs to prove his quality with action and not fire back at the crowd after a good performance. He attempted to apologize after the NBA fined him $25K for his transgressions, but the fans clearly wanted to showcase their frustration, offering minimal cheer as his name was called out at MSG prior to Monday’s game.
The best thing Randle can do at this point is to stay quiet and regain the trust and affection of the fans. His next opportunity will come against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 PM.