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Sunday, December 04, 2022

Stefan Bondy: Knicks must stop pretending the Julius Randle problem does not exist

202203291334Tms Mngtrpub Sports Stefan Bondy Knicks Need Stop Pretending 1 Ny5

It’s hard to remember a player with such extreme love and hate for his work as Julius Randle.

He loves playing enough through injuries, to play through frustration, to lead the league in minutes last season after turning his 6-8 enormous body into a conditioned machine. As Randle said Sunday, after just his second missed game due to an injury over three seasons with the Knicks, “I hate taking time off.”

It’s a refreshing attitude in today’s NBA world, where too many stars treat the regular season like a lazy Sunday. And yet, it’s hard to understand why Randle wants to be on the basketball court so much, especially this season at Madison Square Garden, where he often looks miserable.

The latest example was Monday night’s victory over the Bulls, which was soured by Randle’s reactions before and after the last buzz, especially his beeline to the locker room while his teammates celebrated. It’s impossible to know what’s going on in Randle’s mind during these moments, but the optics suggest some self-centered beef or uncertainty. Tom Thibodeau avoids the subject when asked by the media, and often sends the conversation to Randle’s rebound or some team-wide issue.

It could, of course, be the bowing of the home crowd or the worship and hymns for Randle’s replacement, Obi Toppin. Randle’s thumbs-down gesture in January showed that he was well aware of the MSG crowd.

There is more evidence to suggest that he is affected by the environment. The difference is not earth-shattering, but Randle shoots worse at home than on the road (39.7% to 42.4%), shoots worse from the other side of the arc (28.9% to 32.4%), shoots worse from the vuillyn (74.5). % to 77%), less recording (19.1 points to 20.1 points) and more turnover (3.5 to 3.3). The Knicks also possess a better record on the road.

It can also be the frustration of a declining role, with RJ Barrett’s ascension taking away some of Randle’s brilliance and opportunities. Randle considers himself a star worthy of the ball, and shows the confidence that is great for a star with the required skills, but counterproductive if it is inflated too much.

Skeptics around the league do not believe Randle can succeed as a second, third or fourth option, which should be his status on a title contender. Even today, without another All-Star on the roster, Randle’s grip on the pronounced role is slipping away due to Barrett, who controls the ball and knowledge of his teammates as he builds to a maximum extension in the off-season. .

“Right now he’s the tall guy,” center Mitchell Robinson said of 21-year-old Barrett. “You have to feed him. We win, he eats, everyone eats. ”

This season fell on his face when Barrett missed four games with a single sprain just before the All-Star break, when the Knicks’ epic late games against the Blazers, Thunder and Nets collapsed. Thibodeau’s job felt in jeopardy, but then Barrett returned after half-time, the young players (specifically Immanuel Quickley and Toppin) rose, and the Knicks enjoyed their best time of the season.

“We just found kind of our rhythm. “Found it late, but found it nonetheless,” Barrett said.

Recalling that another factor was that he was returning from an injury, Barrett said, “Yes, that happened too.”

It continues one of the divisive narratives that Thibodeau lamented last week, but it’s also simple to ignore the months of Randle’s mood swings and unpredictability. It is not sustainable. Something must give.

I was opposed to Randle trading at such a low, and his contract status – he’s only starting a maximum extension of four years next season – makes him more of a negative asset today than his future potential. In other words, the Knicks’ best option is to work it out internally. Use the retirement interviews for harsh realities, not the friendly uncle discussion or the flattering ‘rah, rah, rah’ attitude associated with the team’s CEO World Wide West.

The roster construction is flawed and the Knicks have removed two of Randle’s good friends – Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton – from last season’s squad. But those are poor excuses for Randle’s season and his ugly moments. Even if he can never again shoot 3-pointers as effectively as his magical 2020-’21 season, there is a place for Randle with an attitude adjustment and greater self-awareness.

He has been enabled along the way this season, whether it be James Dolan eating a fine or Thibodeau pretending the destructive behavior does not exist. If you let things go unnoticed too far, you get Stephon Marbury. Someone with the Knicks should give Randle a reality test.

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