This week, New York Knicks fans were informed Julius Randle hasn’t been fully healthy to start the 2023-2024 NBA season. While the team hasn’t exactly been disappointing, there’s been a lot left to be desired, especially with the performances of Randle and Jalen Brunson.
Fans have been especially riding Randle because of his horrific showing on offense and his lack of energy and effort on defense. Didn’t the veteran know he couldn’t afford a critical start to the season, especially from an overall effort/leadership perspective?
Though Knicks fans don’t have a reason for Brunson’s struggles, but have certainly let them slide because of how incredible he was for New York last year, they may have an answer for Randle’s issues prior to his last two games (he shot 17-of-40 with 50 points and 26 rebounds in wins over the Clippers and Spurs).
On Thursday, it was reported Randle started the season playing on a balky ankle and was operating at 70% capacity, which definitely helps (partially) explain his first six games. He was on an historically bad pace on the offensive side of the ball, and the infrequent defensive intensity makes a lot more sense.
The puzzling aspect of this, however, is that the Knicks tried to rest him to begin the year but Randle resisted. And they let him have his way despite suggestions to the contrary?
Julius Randle started 2023-2024 season playing injured for the Knicks
This is arguably the team’s most important player because if he’s performing poorly, the Knicks are usually doomed. Additionally, the grueling 82-game season, which has featured load management for the game’s biggest names, can only worsen the injury if it’s not tended to as early as possible.
Not only that, but what better time to deal with an injury of this magnitude? The start of the season is undoubtedly important, but the Knicks have gotten tremendous contributions from RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson early on, both of whom have typically started slow or dealt with injury issues in the past. The Knicks could’ve leaned on that as head coach Tom Thibodeau figured out lineup configurations without Randle to set up the team better for the long haul.
The earlier teams deal with adversity, the better they’re able to handle it as the season progresses.
Randle underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery in the offseason after suffering multiple sprains last year. These injuries were the driving force in getting the Knicks eliminated from the playoffs by the Miami Heat.
But, per the New York Post, Randle is “too proud to sit.” How does the organization allow Randle’s pride to potentially trump the long-term health and playoff aspirations of the team? That’s a question we’d rather not have to revisit in a couple of months.