On Monday, just before his team took on the Clippers at Madison Square Garden, coach Tom Thibodeau had a message of some consolation for struggling Knicks forward Julius Randle. No matter what NBA criticisms he may be dealing with, the coach said, the team still has his back and wants him to be patient.
“Just steady improvement. Just keep getting better,” Thibodeau said pregame on Monday. “We knew it would take some time.”
And Julius Randle may have given Thibodeau his answer to the message. On Monday, as the Knicks downed the Clippers, Randle was not exactly a model of efficiency (9-for-21 shooting) but he clawed his way to 27 points, adding 10 rebounds and 3-for-8 shooting from the 3-point arc.
There were six turnovers, certainly. But compared to the numbers Randle posted early in the year, the Knicks are more than happy to see Julius Randle return, mostly, to form. He had been averaging 13.7 points on 27.1% shooting and 22.5% 3-point shooting through seven games this year and was facing withering criticism over his poor play.
Knicks’ Julius Randle Coming Back From Ankle Surgery
Ahead of the game on Monday, Thibodeau pointed out that the Knicks were not so worried about Julius Randle because he was still coming back from ankle surgery. Randle had discussed how different the offseason had been for him, because he’d played through the ankle pain during the playoffs and had the surgery last spring.
He was unable to work out the way he normally would.
“This is definitely different,” Randle said at Knicks media day. “It was a different offseason, for sure, for me from a physical standpoint. And it will be a different training camp, for sure.”
Thibodeau seemed prescient on Monday when he pointed out that the Knicks had faith in Randle’s ability as a scorer.
“To me, it’s trust your work. Take good shots,” Thibodeau said, per the Daily News. “There’s a lot of things you can do. You can make plays. Get easy buckets for us. I think once he gets some easy buckets will help too. Once he sees the ball go in. We know what a gifted scorer he is. It will come around.”
‘Rough Couple Games to Start’
Still, the frustration around the Knicks before Monday’s game was palpable. Several players have struggled with their shooting—Mitchell Robinson, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart—but it has been Julius Randle shouldering most of the blame for the Knicks, who are now 3-4.
Trying to find a solution for the Knicks’ early woes, longtime NBA veteran and ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins’s criticism came back around to Randle eventually: “Well, first, how about trying to pass the ball to one another? That’s the first thing,” Perkins said of the Knicks falling behind at the half. “It’s too much individual basketball and it starts with Julius Randle. Not only should the Knicks fans be frustrated with the way that he plays the game, but if I’m on his team, I’m frustrated.
“There’s no way in hell that they’re in the film room watching their games and noticing that he is ball hogging, like he has to be unselfish. Get off the ball, trust his teammates and just play team basketball.”
But Julius Randle did have Knicks fans on his side on Monday. On the MSG broadcast after the game, he mentioned it.
“I definitely felt the energy of the fans,” he said. “Them just getting behind me. It was much-needed and after a rough start, rough couple games to start, I tried to stay even-keeled, just stay level-headed. And know it always comes back around. But to have that energy from the fans, that definitely made it easier for me.”