Now Julius Randle must face the music, the Garden’s loyal fans and the “Bing-Bongs” when the Knicks host the Spurs on Monday.
It will be interesting to see the crowd reaction Randle receives when he is introduced as part of the starting lineup before the contest.
These Knicks fans have taken so much abuse this millennium — their team having won just one playoff series since 2000.
But they’ve never been told to “Shut the f- -k up” — as Randle did in the last home game Thursday.
During their miracle buzzer-beating win against the Celtics provided by RJ Barrett’s 3-point bank shot and Evan Fournier’s career-high 41 points, Randle gave a thumbs-down gesture to the fans and then explained his action in profane terms afterward.
This is one fan base in the NBA that doesn’t need a lecture in loyalty. The Brooklyn Nets are a Hall-of-Famer-laden, title-contending powerhouse across the East River and haven’t stolen any of the orange-and-blue diehards.
The NBA was furious at Randle’s words and gesture, particularly after a Dec. 2 league memo warning about gestures and bad language.
The league fined him $25,000 on Saturday for “egregious profane language’’ despite an Instagram apology.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau noted the bad judgment used by Randle, saying he had “a bad day at work.’’
“It’s an emotional game,’’ Thibodeau said in Boston on Saturday. “We all sometimes say things we regret later. He said what he had to say. He moved on. None of us are going to be perfect. I’m pleased what he did. He’s been here a while and understands New York.”
There are signs that Monday could be a bust-out evening for Randle, experiencing a less-than-All-Star campaign (He didn’t finish in the top 10 among Eastern forwards in the early voting returns).
Randle, a Dallas native, weaved a solid second half in San Antonio last month and finished with 15 points and seven assists. He also showed positive energy when his shots started falling, encouraging his teammates on the court.
Bad body language has sometimes marked Randle’s campaign when his shots aren’t going down.
On Saturday, Randle was a train wreck and seemed to lose his tenacity in the second half as the Knicks were outscored 55-33 in a 99-75 disaster. Randle even had trouble catching easy passes as the game wore on. All told, Randle committed six turnovers and shot 1-for-7 from 3-point land in scoring 13 points. Randle was not made available for comment in the interview room afterward. Reporters have not been permitted in locker rooms the past two pandemic seasons.
The best part of Randle’s written apology is he sounded committed to the organization despite his apparent disgust with how he has been treated this season — whether on social media, traditional media or during games.
Despite his big 30-point night against the Pacers on Tuesday, Randle stepped to the line late in the game and the Garden chanted RJ Barrett’s name. It seemed a trolling maneuver as last season they chanted “MVP” at Randle.
But following Randle’s All-Star campaign in 2020-21, his numbers are down — especially his 3-point shooting percentage, which has fallen to 31.6 percent from 41.1 percent.
Randle is no longer shooting 3s in empty arenas as he did much of last season. As one scout said, “It’s easier to shoot in an empty arena. Now that it’s full again, he’s back to what he was.’’
Indeed, Randle still hasn’t fully come out of the funk from last season’s playoffs against Atlanta when arenas became nearly packed again.
Randle’s woes are only partly the reason the Knicks stand at 19-21 — in 11th place in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today, they would be in the lottery — not even the play-in tournament.
Las Vegas nailed the Knicks entering this season, when the sportsbooks came out with their Over/Under for victories. Vegas had the Knicks tied for eighth place in victories in the Eastern Conference and some Knicks fans shuddered in disbelief.
But all the concerns after their 41-31, fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference from last season have come to fruition.
Their age 30-plus point guards, Kemba Walker and Derrick Rose, haven’t stayed healthy. New-signee Fournier hasn’t been consistent enough — at either end.
And most of all, Randle hasn’t looked enough like a second-team All-NBA superstar.