Did Knicks MSG crowd play mental games with Julius Randle last season?

Julius Randle, New York Knicks (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Julius Randle, New York Knicks (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) /

Coming off a disgruntled 2021-22 season, there’s no hiding that Julius Randle seemed to have some issues on the court last season.

With the fans at MSG booing him at times last season for poor play, Randle seemed fed up with the situation. In a tight game against the Celtics in January, Randle gave the garden crowd a thumbs down after they cheered for him. Randle’s overall attitude last season made fans wonder if it was time to move on.

When did things start to go wrong for the Knicks and Julius Randle?

Questions about Randle started arising after he averaged a pedestrian 18 points, 11.5 rebounds, and four assists on 29.8% shooting in the five-game first-round series loss to the Atlanta Hawks at the end of the 2020-21 season.

He simply stated that he overcomplicated his thinking in that Hawks series:

In the playoffs, Julius didn’t look like the herculean Julius that Knicks fans were accustomed to in the 2020-21 season, and that wasn’t good enough.

Mental warfare at home?

Julius Randle didn’t meet the lofty expectations he set for himself when he became an All-Star, made All-NBA Second Team, won Most Improved Player, and most importantly, led the Knicks to a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference in the 2020-21 season.

He still averaged a respectable 20 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists, but it wasn’t the 24 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists that he averaged in 2020-21. His efficiency dropped in every category from his All-Star season. Randle didn’t play with the same intensity and flair that once electrified the Knicks fanbase.

Could the fan situation at MSG have played a mental game with Randle? 

Randle shot 42.4% on 17.9 shot attempts on the road (35 games) compared to 39.8% on 16.7 shot attempts at home (37 games) in 2021-22. His increased free-throw percentage on the road (77% to 74.1%) and three-point percentage (32.4% to 29.4%) give a strong indication that Randle was more comfortable and played better on the road.

He averaged 21.1 points per game on the road in comparison to the 19.1 points he averaged at home.

The contrast from 2020-21

This is a stark contrast from how Randle played at MSG in the 2020-21 season. Granted, most home games until March 2021 were in front of minimal crowds, Randle shot 45.8% from the floor on 19.2 shots per game while averaging 25.5 points at home. He also shot 42.1% from three and 81.1% from the foul line.

So, what happened?

It’s probably not something that people often think about, but the mental side of knowing a crowd or fanbase is not on your side is something that can affect a player.

It will be interesting to see which way Randle will turn this season as he still is and looks like he will be a member of the Knicks going forward.

Improving efficiency at home will certainly be one way to get the crowd back on his side. It will be one step closer to the 2020-21 version of Julius Randle returning. All that Knicks fans want to see is effort and winning plays, as this fanbase is hungrier than ever for success after getting a brief taste of it in the 2021 playoffs.

Julius Randle has the skill to get New York back on his side, but it’ll come down to how bad he wants to make it work here.