Last season, Julius Randle took his game to another level.
In his seventh season in the league and second with the New York Knicks, Randle posted career numbers across the board with 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists on 45.6% shooting from the field and an incredible 41.1% from three. He went on to win the league’s Most Improved Player award and earned his first All-Star appearance. He was also named to the All-NBA Second Team.
After all that, the trajectory of Randle’s career seemed set to take off. Except the exact opposite has happened. If anything, he’s taken a significant step back in 2022.
2021 NBA Playoffs
If you want to find a starting point for this regression, a good place would be the 2021 NBA Playoffs. In his first career playoff appearance, Randle and the #4 seeded Knicks hosted the #5 seeded Atlanta Hawks. After putting up those career-high numbers, he disappeared in the postseason.
Randle averaged 18 points and grabbed 11.6 boards, but the efficiency was horrendous. In five games, Randle shot 28-94 (29.8%) from the field and 11-33 (33.3%) from three. The Knicks lost the series 4-1 and questions began to be asked if Randle could be a team’s top option.
New Season, Same Issues
As the 2021-2022 season began, Randle looked like the player we saw during the last regular season. As time has passed, though, his performance has dropped back to what we saw in the playoffs. His scoring has dropped to 18.9 points to go along with averages of 41.2% from the field and 31.1% from three.
With his play regressing, the Knicks record has taken a hit as well. In a shortened season, the Knicks were ninth this time last year through 19 games. By the end of the season, they tied for the fourth-best record in the conference at 41-31. This season, they’re barely scraping into the Play-In Tournament as the 10th seed with a record of 23-25. The fact of the matter is the rest of the Eastern Conference has stepped up. Meanwhile, Randle and the Knicks have stepped back.
After their most recent loss on Monday to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Jonathan Macri of Knicks Film School tweeted out quite the statistic about how rough Randle has had it this season.
Tom Thibodeau is notorious for playing through his stars, but this has become a real problem for the Knicks. As the best and highest-paid player on the team, Randle hasn’t been the Knicks’ solo leading scorer in a game since Christmas Day.
Hearing it at MSG
Now, he might be at odds with the fanbase too. As the passionate Knicks fans have let him have it for his performance this season, Randle returned the favor in a game earlier this month. After giving the Madison Square Garden home crowd a thumbs down in a game against the Celtics, Randle described its meaning postgame as “Shut the f*** up”. Later on, he released a public apology but was still fined $25,000 for his use of language.
With his current deal set to the end at the end of this season, the Knicks recently signed him to an extension last summer through 2024-2025. Between his regression, his relationship with the fans, and questions of him as the man for the Knicks, it’ll be interesting to see how this issue progresses moving forward for Randle in the Big Apple.