Tuesday night was one of extremes for Knicks forward Julius Randle. About an hour before he and his teammates tipped-off against the Golden State Warriors at Madison Square Garden, the 26-year-old, seven-year pro learned he had been chosen by the NBA’s coaches to be a reserve on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. Conversely, Randle’s night ended with him being tossed from the game with 17.5 seconds remaining after being assessed a second technical foul.
He had conflicting emotions, being surprised by a video message on the Garden’s large overhead screen during a timeout in the first quarter from his mother, Carolyn Kyles, a former college basketball player at the University of Texas-Arlington, congratulating him on becoming the Knicks’ first All-Star since Kristaps Porzingis in 2018.
Nevertheless, Randle’s 25-point, 12-rebound, seven-assists effort wasn’t enough to overcome the Warriors and Stephen Curry’s 37 points, six rebounds and six assists, as the Knicks fell 114-106. His smile masked the exasperation the Dallas native felt walking back to the Knicks’ locker room after being ejected. Still, Randle has been instrumental to his team’s noteworthy revival. The Knicks are 15-17 heading into tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings at home, a sizable improvement from last season when they were 8-24 after 32 games.
“Just as you grow as a player throughout the course of your career, you learn how to do the little things to help the team win,” said Randle on Tuesday morning in a Zoom media conference following the Knicks’ shootaround. “Coach [Tom Thibodeau] has done a great job of coaching me up, putting me in those positions.
“And we’re winning, having those numbers. But I think a lot of people maybe, before the year, may have counted us out as a team, said that we weren’t going to be that good as a team. We’re turning a lot of heads on a game-to-game basis so that probably has something to do with it too.”
Randle was referring to the strong chorus of fans, coaches, teammates and even the media that were lobbying for him to be added to the East’s All-Star squad. “I think it’s great for the organization, obviously great for Julius,” said Thibodeau after the Knicks shot just 39.2% (38-97) versus the Warriors.
“I think the fact he’s helped the team win helped him to get recognized, so I think his teammates I know, are very happy and they share in that success with him. All the things he’s done for the team. Being unselfish, being a great worker. The way he practices, I think is important for our team. And just the way he brings it every night.”
The next step in the Knicks’ progression is cultivating another consistent scorer to help Randle, who leads them at 23.3 points per game, and has been the team’s high scorer in 11 of their past 12 games. R.J. Barrett, who was limited to 4 points on 1-9 shooting versus the Warriors, is second on the Knicks, averaging 16.2.
Rookie guard Immanuel Quickley, who for much of this season has provided valuable offense off the bench, is 7-33 shooting over his last four games. The Knicks are last in the league (30th) in scoring at 103.6 points per game. After the Kings, they will host the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, then travel to Detroit to play the Pistons on Sunday.