Knicks’ Julius Randle doesn’t ‘give a ‘s–t about outside criticism

The two games Julius Randle missed while stuck in the COVID-19 protocols spoke loudly about what he means to the Knicks.

His vengeance upon returning may be speaking even louder.

During a 30-point explosion to help carry the Knicks to a win over the Pacers on Tuesday, Randle was reminiscent of his breakout All-Star 2020-21 season, and at a level rarely seen this season. There have been more shouts than whispers about his regression, and some saw his entering the health and safety guidelines as a way to afford Obi Toppin more minutes at power forward.

While claiming he does not pay attention to any outside criticism, Randle confirmed he has heard the outside criticism.

“Really don’t give a f–k what anybody has to say, to be honest,” Randle said after practice in Tarrytown on Wednesday. “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.”

Julius Randle
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

After the Knicks’ 104-94 win on Tuesday, Randle declined to speak to the media. It is unclear what specifically vexed the fulcrum of the Knicks’ offense, but as the issues have added up for a middling, 18-20 team that was a four seed in the Eastern Conference last season, the pitchforks have turned to the $117 million star.

It probably did not help that while Randle was taking free throws during the second half Tuesday, “RJ Barrett” chants emanated from the Garden crowd. Those voices often had rained down “MVP” cries when Randle took foul shots last season.

Asked if he has felt underappreciated, Randle said the right people value him.

“That’s for you guys [media] to judge. My teammates appreciate me, my coaches, organization,” Randle said before alluding to the Knicks’ team president, senior basketball adviser and head coach, respectively. “Leon [Rose], Wes [William Wesley], Thibs [Tom Thibodeau]. Everyone appreciates me. That’s all I need.”

Julius Randle, driving on Oshae Brissett, scored 30 point in the Knicks' win over the Pacers.
Julius Randle, driving on Oshae Brissett, scored 30 point in the Knicks’ win over the Pacers.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

Still, Randle must have felt partly vindicated when the Knicks were noncompetitive in the pair of games without him — at Oklahoma City and Toronto last weekend — and lost by 30 combined points. Though the high-flying Toppin provided consistent energy and scored 19 points at Toronto, the Knicks were a different team without Randle.

“The only thing that matters is what we think,” Thibodeau said of the 27-year-old, who is now seeing the flip side of stardom. “When a team wins, everyone gets recognized. And being in the role that he’s in, he probably takes more blame than he should.”

The critics would be quieter and Randle would be pacified if he keeps playing as he did in his first contest out of the protocols.

After Barrett starred for the first half, Randle took over the second, in which he shot 7-for-11 and grabbed nine of his 16 rebounds, looking like the rare combination of agile and strong that elevated his status last season.

All of his numbers are down after his career year, his shooting percentage fell from 45.6 to 42.3, and his accuracy beyond the arc dropped from 41.1 percent to 32.7.

On Tuesday, he shot 2-for-7 from 3-point range, but connected on an array of difficult midrange shots, which is where he plays best. He attacked more and owned the boards, which Thibodeau said he appreciated. He appeared rejuvenated, which the Knicks will need at the Garden on Thursday against the Celtics, especially with Derrick Rose out and Kemba Walker likely out.

Prior to Randle’s positive COVID-19 test, which sidelined him beginning last Thursday, his first step seemed slower and his body appeared beaten up. Randle said he did not have symptoms of the coronavirus, though he felt sick weeks ago.

Thibodeau acknowledged after the Knicks’ win in Detroit on Dec. 29 that Randle was nicked up. While Randle said he was able to work out each day of his quarantine, it’s possible the time off helped more than it hurt.

“Sometimes a couple days off is what you need,” Thibodeau said of Randle, who led the NBA in minutes played last season. “If you’re looking for a silver lining, that was probably it.”

Another silver lining might have been extra time for Randle to absorb what people are writing and saying about him.

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