The New York Knicks have found their star for the 2021 season

New York Knicks, Julius Randle
Dec 29, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) drives against Cleveland Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (10) in the first quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have a long road ahead of them in 2021, but they’ve started off the campaign with optimism. After losing their first two games to open the year, the Knicks have bounced back and beat the Milwaukee Bucks and Cleveland Cavaliers, two teams that were considered far above their paygrade.

Scoring 130 points against the Bucks undoubtedly put the Knicks in good form, and they backed it up with a stellar defensive performance against the Cavaliers, who started the season with three straight wins. In fact, they had scored a low of 118 points over that three-game span, but the Knicks held them to just 85.

Interestingly, the Knicks didn’t do themselves any favors, as they turn the ball over a combined 24 times, compared to Cleveland’s 13. They still manage to walk away with a victory, thanks to a stellar performance from Julius Randle, who played a team-high 44 minutes.

Randle turned the ball over nine times, nearly double the player with the second most, Elfrid Payton with five. Nonetheless, he posted 28 points, 11 assists, and 12 total rebounds. He recorded the first triple-double for the Knicks this season and his first since joining the team in 2020.

The New York Knicks needed Randle to step up:

Heading into the contest, Randle averaged 23.7 points per game, 6.3 assists, and 10 total rebounds. Overall, he was averaging a double-double over the first three games of the season. He played a season-high in minutes and showed off his influence as the Knicks battle injuries with their young players.

The involvement of Randle early on has shown the Knicks do, in fact, have a star player to work around. New president Leon Rose struggled to lure big names to the Mecca of basketball, and that was thought to be a significant loss, but it seems as if the organization will be just fine with the rookies looking to make a comeback and the veterans holding down the fort in the meantime.

It’s nice to see Tom Thibodeau’s mentality of winning games over player development is paying off. Who would’ve thought winning might be the best source of confidence and avoiding the learning curve.

There is still a long journey ahead, but the early influence of Randle has been welcomed by Thibodeau, who expects his team to dominate on defense. They did just that against Cleveland, holding them to 85 points, the first time the Knicks kept a team under 100 this season.