When you’re playing for your third team in seven seasons, it is little wonder that you might value some stability. That, it appears, is the case for emerging Knicks star Julius Randle, who is wrapping up a career year in which he not only made his first NBA All-Star appearance, but also is a favorite to win the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.
The good news for the Knicks—he’s on the New York roster just as he finds himself ready for stability.
At age 26, Randle says he is prepared to go the long haul in a Knicks uniform, though it figures to be a harrowing year or so until the team is likely to lock him up to a long-term extension.
Asked on the “Victory the Podcast” show about his feelings for New York, Randle responded with music to the ears of Knicks fans: “I love playing in New York. I want to retire as a New York Knick.’’
For a guy coming off a season in which he is averaging 24.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting 45.9% from the field and, incredibly, 41.5% from the 3-point line, the Knicks are eager to comply with Randle’s wishes.
Thibodeau Offers High Praise for Julius Randle
Randle has found a home in New York, playing under coach Tom Thibodeau, who has helped elevate Randle into superstardom. Randle played four seasons for the Lakers coming out of Kentucky, and one season with the Pelicans, posting good-not-great numbers along the way.
Thibodeau gave credit to Randle and the work he has done on his 3-pointer, which has helped lead the Knicks from 27th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (33.7%) last year to 39.0% this year, which ranks fourth. That has been a driver of the team’s remarkable season, which will culminate in the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
Before the season, one sports book set Knicks’ over/under win total at 22.5. Thanks to strong performances in all corners of the organization (Tom Thibodeau, Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Leon Rose’s front office & more), NYK has vastly exceeded that number: https://t.co/tjuU7CElqi
— Ian Begley (@IanBegley) May 13, 2021
“I thought he would have a good year, but I didn’t see this level,” Thibodeau said, per The Knicks Wall. “Obviously, the big thing was the three. It stood out right away during the summer, but you’re in the gym when there’s no defenders. It looked a lot better coming off his hand, the arc was better, and he looked real comfortable with it.”
Thibodeau said Randle’s work with his perimeter shot set the tone for the entire team.
“All the other guys put in the extra time as well,” Thibodeau said. “Julius set the tone for that. You see him work on it every day. He’s in early, he stays late. He comes back at night, and we have a number of guys that do that. If you put the time into it, usually you’ll get a good result.”
Randle Has Been on the Move Through NBA Career
Staying put with the Knicks would represent a shift for Randle. The Lakers let Randle walk as a free agent after his rookie deal was up, and the Pelicans let him go after he averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds in his one season in New Orleans. The Knicks signed him to a three-year, $62 million contract in 2019, with the third season only partially guaranteed, at $19.8 million.
The Knicks are certain to pick up the full option for next season, putting Randle in position to cash in big-time when he hits free agency in 2022. As it stands, the Knicks can offer Randle a contract extension, but are limited to a contract that starts at 20% more than the final year of his deal, or $23.8 million.
Randle, with how he has played this season and with the success the Knicks have had in securing a playoff spot, is sure to get much more than that. Hopefully, his big payday comes in New York.