At some point during his pre-game stretches on Tuesday, Julius Randle noticed text after text coming into his phone.
“It was definitely a crazy surreal moment,” Randle said.
Randle was named an Eastern Conference All-Star about an hour before tipoff of Knicks-Warriors on Tuesday. It was the culmination of months of offseason training and weeks of incredibly hot shooting, distributing and all-around strong play.
“Everything you could dream of; it just seemed like it all came to fruition,” Randle said late Tuesday night. “It was amazing, honestly, and everything that I signed up for. And goals that I wrote down when I decided to come here and play for the Knicks. It’s all happening.”
Randle’s All-Star nod is a testament to his resilience. He struggled in his first season in New York. He was the face of a team that started the year 4-17, endured the firing of its head coach and finished 24 games under .500.
Before Leon Rose took over, the Knicks had talks with teams about trading Randle ahead to the 2020 NBA deadline. Teams believed Randle would be available via trade in the 2020 offseason, particularly after the Knicks drafted Obi Toppin, a fellow power forward.
Randle probably saw all of the trade rumors over the offseason. He also knew that people weren’t expecting much from the Knicks.
Instead of wilting under the criticism and low expectations, Randle came to training camp in great shape and thrived under Tom Thibodeau and his staff. He’s lifted the Knicks to a surprising 15-17 start to the season and, by all accounts, has embraced the role of team leader.
“All the things that he’s done for the team – being unselfish, being a great worker, the way he practices – I think is important for our (club), and just the way he brings it every night,” Thibodeau said Tuesday. “So I think (Randle’s All-Star nod) is important for him and important the organization, but we can’t lose sight of what the most important thing and that’s the team winning.”
The Knicks fell short of that goal against the Warriors on Tuesday. They suffered through dry stretches on offense and couldn’t slow down Stephen Curry when it mattered in their first game in front of fans at Madison Square Garden.
Afterward, some Knicks took issue with the officiating (more on that below). But, really, Tuesday’s game was another example to support the idea that Randle can’t do it alone on offense. New York has gotten consistent production from Randle, but hasn’t been able to rely on nightly scoring from anyone else.
The Knicks traded for Derrick Rose in an effort to help win games this season and make a playoff push. Losses like Tuesday’s re-enforce the idea that they need to add more offense via trade before the March 25 deadline if they want to break their seven-season playoff drought.
Where would that help come from? New Orleans remains open to moving JJ Redick. Any veteran on the Pistons can probably be acquired for the right return. So former Knick Wayne Ellington could be available. Surely, there are ways to acquire other players who can stretch the floor and knock down shots.
The Knicks have draft picks and young players (Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina) to offer in a trade for the kind of player that can boost their perimeter shooting. They also have the draft capital to trade for a bigger star.
No matter how they approach things at the deadline, nights like Tuesday provide more evidence that they need to find some help on offense if they want to make a playoff push.
RANDLE’S MOM ON JUMBOTRON:
The Knicks played a congratulatory message from Randle’s mom, Carolyn Kyles, on the Jumbotron on Tuesday. Randle said he was touched by the gesture. “It was definitely amazing. Throughout the course of this past year, it’s definitely been tough on all of us. But my mother, she hasn’t been able to leave the house; she’s a diabetic. We’ve been extra cautious with her. It’s been really tough on her because she hasn’t really left the house and gotten out.
“So she’s really been isolating alone. When I’m back home in Dallas I spend time with her but it’s been tough.
“So I know this was a special night for her as well. She’s been there every step of the way seeing all of the work I put in. so it’s definitely special for her as well. It was amazing just to see how happy she was congratulating me.”
ROSE, THIBS UNHAPPY WITH OFFICIATING:
The Knicks felt that they weren’t getting calls that they deserved on some drives against the Warriors.
“I felt we were getting good shots. To be honest we weren’t getting the calls,” Rose said. “It felt like guys were going into the lane and we weren’t getting the same calls. It makes it hard when it’s that lopsided.”
Thibodeau challenged a foul call late in the fourth quarter on RJ Barrett. Refs upheld the call, which cited Barrett for making contact with his hip on Kelly Oubre.
“I want to look at it again. What I saw on the replay, I didn’t think there was a foul,” Thibodeau said when asked after the game about the call. “Obviously they felt differently. That was sort of my vantage point, if that was a foul there were several others that were fouls as well that weren’t called. It can’t be one way and that’s what you’re looking for. You’re just looking for consistency.”
NO CENTER FOR TOPPIN AT THE MOMENT:
It doesn’t sound like Thibodeau sees value in playing rookie Toppin at center right now.
“We tried it some early on. He’s still a work in progress. I think he’s learning the league. I think Julius has played more five than he has, so when he’s played with Julius he’s been more of the power forward position,” Thibodeau said when asked about playing Toppin at center. “Him learning one position right now is probably better in terms of his overall development and growth. At some point we will get a look at that as well.”
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