BOSTON — Julius Randle didn’t get a free pass from the NBA on Saturday and it is to be determined whether he will get a free pass from the fans he may have insulted.
Despite the long apology he issued Friday night on Instagram at the encouragement of the Knicks and his team at Creative Artists Agency, Randle has been fined $25,000 by the NBA for two incidents of “egregious use of profane language” this week relating to fans.
Randle made his comments to the media on two separate occasions — following the Knicks’ 108-105 victory over the Celtics on Thursday and after practice on Wednesday. The Knicks completed their home-and-home with Boston on Saturday night.
After the miracle win Thursday over the Celtics, Randle was asked about the thumbs-down gesture he made after a driving basket in the fourth quarter. He said the meaning was to “shut the f–k up.’’ (The fans had booed the team in the second quarter when they fell behind by 25 points).
On Wednesday, Randle, when asked if he felt unappreciated, had said he doesn’t “give a f–k” what others think about his game as long as his teammates and management appreciate his work.
Randle blew off the media after Tuesday’s win over the Pacers, in which he co-starred with RJ Barrett and scored 30 points. That alone could have been a fineable offense.
The NBA also issued a memo five weeks ago warning players about cursing during interviews. Randle was the example — likely because the curse words were directed at the people who indirectly pay his salary. It should be noted the NBA looked the other way when Randle verbally pounded the referees in late November in a postgame press conference.
Randle will make $19.8 million this season before his four-year extension, worth $117 million, kicks in.
He has taken extra heat this season — perhaps unnecessarily — from the fans for taking a step back from his remarkable 2020-21 season, in which he averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and six assists while shooting 46 percent from the field and 41 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
This season, those numbers have dropped to 19.6 points, 10.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists on 42 percent shooting from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range. The Post has reported there’s also a leadership issue at work and that Randle isn’t very vocal in the locker room.
In addition, a big reason why fans had turned on him is remembering that Randle laid an egg when they needed him most — in the first round of the playoffs versus the Hawks. The Knicks still have won just one playoff series since 2000.
On Tuesday, both Barrett and Randle were rolling, combining for 62 points in a 104-94 win over Indiana. But when Randle went to the free-throw line late in that Garden victory, the fans chanted Barrett’s name rather than the usual “MVP’’ chants Randle heard much of last season.
That had to rub him the wrong way, and he didn’t want to talk to the media after the big win Tuesday.
At practice the next day, Randle said, “Really don’t give a f–k what anybody has to say, to be honest. I’m out there playing. Nobody knows the game out there better than I do, compared to what everybody has to say. So I really don’t give a s–t. I just go out there and play.”
Randle’s apology on Instagram never used the word “apologize’’ but the sentiment covered a lot of ground.
When Randle acted out after the miracle win over the Celtics, indicating he was telling the fans to shut up, there could have been speculation whether Randle wants to be here long-term.
The Instagram message went to clarify that point — an understated but noteworthy part of the posting: “My family and I love how the fans and New Yorkers have embraced and accepted us and have made us feel great about our decision to commit long-term with the team this summer. The support means the world to us.’’
Social media has been mixed, with some fans feeling Randle showed his passion by lashing out at the fans for their critical ways.
If Randle doesn’t perform up to All-Star levels befitting his contract, however, the whole incident will be used against him. New York fans can be fickle and Randle has opened himself up to more scrutiny.
Randle overshadowed a terrific miraculous win in which Barrett and Evan Fournier became heroes and the Knicks came back from a deficit of 25 or more points for just the second time in the past 25 years.
Now, Randle must dig into his wallet and dig deep to win back the fans.