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Julius Randle 2021 is helping Knicks forget about Kristaps Porzingis

Julius Randle 2021 is helping Knicks forget about Kristaps Porzingis

Julius Randle Julius Randle is Porzingis Knicks about helping forget Kristaps

Sat, 17 Apr 2021 04:00:00 -0700

It's no small accomplishment, given the developments of the last two years, that Julius Randle has made us forget about Kristaps Porzingis

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DALLAS — It’s no small accomplishment, given the developments of the last two years, that Julius Randle has made us forget about Kristaps Porzingis.

You remember the 7-3 Latvian, right? He is playing well enough for the Mavericks, carrying the same intrigue as a space-the-floor giant with the same injury concerns.

But Porzingis wasn’t on the same plane as Randle on Friday night at American Airlines Center, and, frankly, neither was Luka Doncic.

We’d easily dismiss it as a one-game anomaly, or a freak stretch of hot games.

Except Randle has taught us better over the last four months.

He’s legit.

Prior to this five-game winning streak, there were moments to wonder whether the 26-year-old was crashing back to earth, regressing to the mean of his career.

The heavy minutes seemed to be taking a toll.

Then he hit another level.

Consider the last three games, all fairly convincing victories:

vs.

Lakers: 39 minutes, 34 points, 10 rebounds

at Pelicans: 42 minutes, 32 points, 8 rebounds

at Mavericks: 41 minutes, 44 points, 10 rebounds

Randle and teammate RJ Barrett noted there was extra motivation against these opponents.

Two (Lakers and Pelicans) are Randle’s former teams.

The other (Dallas) plays in Randle’s hometown.

Those details are, on the surface, minimal motivators.

But that’s what great players do.

They find a reason to gain an edge, search for it in areas others might ignore.

Then they pounce.

“I don’t know who makes the schedule, but you kind of knew he was going to do this,” Barrett said.

“It didn’t surprise me at all.”

Randle is a front runner for the Most Improved Player Award, an honor tinged with insult.

It means he’s great now, but stunk last season.

That’s also a pretty accurate assessment of Randle’s time with the Knicks.

He admitted being a disappointment soon after signing the three-year, $63 million deal, pressing to fill the role as franchise’s No.

1 without the right idea of how to do it.

Then he underwent a physical and mental makeover during a nine-month offseason.

“It’s not just about the weight room and the court.

I’m going to handle that,” Randle said Friday.

“But my mentality and my mindset was just different.

So I changed that aspect as well.

And the results are showing.”

To Tom Thibodeau, Randle’s revelation season has one overarching theme: preparation.

It’s the coach’s favorite word.

It got Randle in the best shape of his career heading into the season.

It added a consistent 3-pointer to his repertoire.

It allowed him read the defense and better facilitate as a point-forward.

“He prepared himself for this, and I think you can’t overlook that,” Thibodeau said.

“I knew when I saw him the first time in the summer, the type of shape that he was in.

…We said it many times he’s our engine.

He makes us go.”

Randle doesn’t stop going, either.

He leads the NBA in minutes per game and total minutes, the contradiction to load management.

During a season that started with the Knicks drafting his replacement at power forward, Randle’s averaging 23.6 points, 10.6 rebounds and six assists while shooting over 46%.

And on Friday against Porzingis, he became the first Knick since Bernard King in 1985 to record 40-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and 5-plus assists in a game.

Randle wasn’t part of the Porzingis trade, but he was still viewed as the Latvian’s replacement after signing in free agency.

It was a downgrade last season, and now flipped completely as Randle makes a case for an All-NBA selection.

“It’d be great, it’d be a great accomplishment, a great achievement.

I have thought about (being All-NBA),” he said.

“But the biggest thing for me right now is being consistent and what I need to do to help us win games.”

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Julius Randle Julius Randle

Sat, 17 Apr 2021 04:00:00 -0700

Randle tallied 44 points (16-29 FG, 6-11 3Pt, 6-9 FT), 10 rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a blocked shot across 41 minutes in Friday's 117-109 win over 

Randle tallied 44 points (16-29 FG, 6-11 3Pt, 6-9 FT), 10 rebounds, seven assists, a steal and a blocked shot across 41 minutes in Friday’s 117-109 win over Dallas.

Randle was hot from the outset, scoring 15 of New York’s first 23 points.

He never really slowed down, tying his season high in scoring and falling just one point below his career-best mark.

Randle has dominated over his past three games, averaging 36.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 4.3 three-pointers.

He’s enjoying the finest season of his career, helping the Knicks stay in the thick of the playoff race with a 30-27 record.

That should help him get ample playing time down the stretch.

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– April 17, 2021