The Knicks‘ free-agent signing of Julius Randle was a move of desperation after the failure to sign any stars. With this signing, the Knicks got what every other team got in Julius Randle. He delivered the points and rebounds, was a black hole, and consistently turned the ball over.
When you read scouting reports on Randle dating back to high school, he has been the same player Knick fans saw last year, for his entire basketball career. Randle has always had the size, strength, agility, handle, soft hands, and the desire to rebound. But his usual faults have always been present, as well. Randle was judged to have poor defensive fundamentals, bullying his way through double and triple teams, turnovers, lack of leadership, and a failure to recognize when to pass or shoot a pull-up J.
Critics questioned his basketball IQ, failure to develop his ability to shoot threes, and the ease with which opponents attacked the rim without any resistance from Randle. The most severe criticism was leveled at his infuriating spin moves of multiple dribbles that led to his numerous turnovers, either steals or offensive fouls.
Randle seemed more interested in putting up points than winning games. This was the same Julius Randle who starred in high school at Prestonwood Christian Academy. His skills were so good that he never really developed them further at Kentucky or in the NBA.
Randle showed no leadership and only seemed happy with personal, not team success. Was it that amazing victory over Houston in 2019-20 where Taj Gibson called the players together for a fist-raising celebration and JR Smith walked away? Even though he is very strong and has very quick feet, his defense was terrible. That was the Julius Randle of years past.
This year Knick fans, the NBA, and hopefully, Julius Randle got a glimpse of how good he can become. With his touch from three and his pull-up J, Randle should be smart enough to avoid dribble drives that feature back and forth spin moves that allow for him to be doubled and tripled.
He has all the offense Carmelo Anthony had, plus he rebounds at a much higher rate. Anthony had one season in which he averaged 8.1 rebounds. Randle has never averaged fewer than 8 boards.
Will Julius Randle be the face of the franchise for the New York Knicks? Will he approach superstardom?
Without question, Julius Randle has the physical tools to become a star. The first question that should be asked is, “Will he realize that there is much more that he can accomplish if he keeps developing his weaknesses, or will he be satisfied with his current success? “ The latter is the historical Randle.
There is a quote somewhere that goes something like this. ‘Once in the NBA, the talent becomes secondary to strength of character for continued growth and success.’ It is now a question of Julius Randle’s character. Character, not in the sense that he is a good guy or bad guy, but in the sense of commitment to his craft, determination to reach his goals, the strength to take responsibility for his talents, and the courage to see wins and losses as a part of this responsibility. Now that Randle is an all-star, it will be interesting to see how he answers the bell for the second half of the season.
The recent game with Golden State offers some indications of Julius Randle’s future leadership. He had his usual solid game on the offensive end. But there were instances where he passed up seemingly open shots to feed the ball to other players. Randle should take the shot, not RJ Barrett. In the second half, Kelly Oubre guarded Randle, and Draymond Green floated freely as a help defender. More was required for a Knicks’ win than Randle provided.
These are games where Julius Randle, the star, must assert himself. He must take open shots, constantly threaten to attack the defense, and make smart decisions. He is the all-star on the Knicks. An unfavorable characteristic that Julius Randle shares with Carmelo Anthony is his simple, ‘let’s get along’ smile. There is a lot to be said for a ‘game face’. Isaiah Thomas’s smile was that of an assassin. His game was heartless. Melo and Randle want to be friends with their opponents during the game.
To them, basketball is only a game. How nice. Except winning and losing hangs in the balance. The more intense, not the friendliest, teams win. There have been very gentlemanly winners who competed at the highest levels and were respected by their opponents as much for their competitiveness as for their talent.
Bill Russell, Willis Reed, Magic Johnson Larry Bird, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, and Jimmy Butler are only a few examples. The list goes on and on. What all these great players have in common is an extremely high character, as defined above.
The Knicks finally have a star in Julius Randle. The Washington Wizards have a star Bradley Beal, the Chicago Bulls have Zach LaVine, and the Atlanta Hawks have Trae Young. Do any of these players have the courage to lay it all on the line when it comes to the only stats that really matter, wins and losses? As Knick fans, we can only hope that Julius Randle will continue to grow into a Tier Two-star in the next Athletic Poll. He has the talent, it will simply take character.