Julius Randle has become not only an All-Star this season, but the leader of a Knicks team that’s firmly in the playoff race, writes Steve Popper of Newsday. When New York’s season ended early last year, Randle went home to work on his body and his game. That preparation helped him get ready for the demands of new coach Tom Thibodeau.
Randle leads the NBA in minutes played and hasn’t missed any of New York’s 37 games. He has career-high numbers with 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game and is shooting 40.8% from three-point range after hitting just 27.7% from beyond the arc last year. He has also become more vocal in his interactions with the media.
“I definitely think I’ve grown as a leader,” Randle said. “I definitely think I’m a person on our team that leads by example with how I approach how I work. I care about my teammates. I definitely think it’s something that guys look to me every night to bring my game a certain way. I try to the best of my ability to do that. Absolutely I embrace it. I work for it. I challenge myself and push myself to be able to do it on a nightly basis. I know I still have a long way to go and I can get a lot better as well.”
There’s more from New York:
- The Knicks won’t make a play for Blake Griffin, who was bought out by the Pistons this week, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle already occupies heavy minutes at power forward, and the team doesn’t want to add someone who will take playing time away from first-round pick Obi Toppin. The cross-town Nets are considered the favorites to sign Griffin.
- There have been internal discussions about bringing back center Kyle O’Quinn, who is currently playing in Turkey, Berman adds. With starting center Mitchell Robinson sidelined, the Knicks are looking for another big man to back up Nerlens Noel. O’Quinn played 29 games last season for the Sixers.
- Ian Begley of SNY.tv spoke to representatives of two rival teams about Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina, who enjoyed a resurgence over the final five games of the first half. Injuries created an opportunity for Ntilikina, who responded by hitting eight of 12 three-point attempts over that stretch and displaying the defensive skills that prompted New York to make him a lottery pick in 2017. The two representatives agreed that if Ntilikina is traded, it’s more likely to be as part of a package, rather than by himself.