We will find out soon enough if the feeling is mutual, but Julius Randle remains committed to the Knicks.
The slumping All-Star forward said Friday in Milwaukee that he “wouldn’t change” his decision to sign a contract extension worth up to $117 million with the Knicks last summer — even despite his declining numbers, the team’s losing record and his recent spat with fans and the media.
“I still want to be a part of it. I still want to see this thing through. I still want to be a part of helping trying to bring a championship to the Knicks,” Randle told reporters. “So, I’m not going to be happy and be all about it when things are good and just because it’s not necessarily going the way I want it to or the team wants it to run and hide.
“I’m still behind this. I’m still sticking it through.”
Randle was voted to the All-NBA second team last season after fronting the Knicks – alongside first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau — to the franchise’s first postseason berth since 2013.
Following a poor performance in a five-game elimination by the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs, however, the 27-year-old Randle and the team clearly have regressed this season.
They enter Friday’s game against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the defending champion Bucks outside the 10 playoff positions in the Eastern Conference with a 23-26 record, including five losses in the past six games.
Randle’s scoring average has dipped from a career-best 24.1 points per game in 2020-21 to 18.7, while his 3-point shooting percentage has plummeted from 41.1 percent to 30.7 this season.
“It’s been hard, but like my man J. Cole says, there’s beauty in the struggle,” Randle said, referring to the popular rapper/singer. “It’s a struggle. We’re trying to figure it out. But this is really where you find out what people are about.
“This is when you find out about the character of the guys on your team, so I’m excited about [it]. We still got a lot of games to play, so I’m excited to see how we push forward and push past it.”
Randle also admittedly didn’t handle well the criticism he has heard from fans at Madison Square Garden and via social media this season. He was fined $25,000 by the NBA for explaining a thumbs-down gesture to the fans at one home game as telling them to “shut the f–k up,” and the team later was fined the same amount for preventing him from speaking to the media following games. A Knicks fan also alleged on WFAN that Randle had him booted from FTX Arena in Miami on Wednesday for heckling him.
“Same thing, man. I’m going to stick to my guns. I’m going to stick to who I am as a person,” Randle said. “That’s coming in, working every day, trying to be an infectious leader with my spirit and my energy and just try to be positive.”
Thibodeau has continued to support Randle through his struggles, even as third-year wing RJ Barrett has begun to take on more of the leadership burden this year, especially since veteran guard Derrick Rose underwent ankle surgery in December.
With the Feb. 10 trade deadline looming, Thibodeau said after Wednesday’s blowout loss in Miami that he believes Randle “will get back to” being the player he was last year and “our team has to get back to that,” as well.
“Definitely. We got the team. We got the talent. We got the coach, support. So, we definitely can do it,” Randle said. “We’ve just got to take everything day by day. Understand it’s a process and understand things don’t happen overnight. And as long as we’re creating and building the right habits every day, we’ll be fine.”