Nothing about the last year and change has been pretty for the New York Knicks. It’s only right that their lone All-star representative, Julius Randle, symbolizes all of the emotional highs and lows the team has been through.
2021’s Most Improved Player of the Year was selected as an All-Star reserve last Thursday. It is his second All-Star nod, and second in three years. Before entering play against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday night he was averaging 24.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists while sporting a 45.7% shooting percentage from the field. Randle’s play fluctuates between elite and subpar, but this season has been an improvement from the last campaign in terms of his ability to manage the inevitable ups and downs of an 82 game slate. After a 23-point performance in New York’s 106-104 over the Miami Heat, the Kentucky product spoke about how a mental reset in the offseason made all the difference.
“Sometimes I get into my own head because I’m such a perfectionist with stuff,” Randle told the New York Post. “And when things aren’t going right, I can get a little frustrated. For me, I have to accept failure, accept those things, learn to deal with frustration.”
“And I think that is really like the biggest adjustment. Success feels amazing and I don’t want to let go of it. For me, while we were having our ups and downs, I had to learn how to be a leader through success and failure.”
Randle is the perfect individual to represent the Knicks at this season’s All-Star game. The team as a whole has struggled to maintain a stable identity or a consistent set of expectations. RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson may be the pieces that propel New York to a brighter future, but Randle has helped lay a foundation that while flawed, has also lifted the orange and blue out of the realm of complete mediocrity.
2021’s Cinderella run to the NBA Playoffs gave Knicks fans an abundance of hope. Their defensive identity was reminiscent of the 90’s teams that also graced the garden floor. The overall improvement shown by Randle made much of their success possible. The 2021 squad ultimately fell short and was eliminated in the first round by Tre Young and the Atlanta Hawks, but provided a foundation that was not there previously.
Last season saw both Randle and the team regress, and this year may be best described as a combination of the previous two. The addition of point guard Jalen Brunson has given Randle, Barrett, Immanuel Quickley and others more room to grow. The Knicks enjoyed an eight game winning streak earlier this year, and are well within the playoff hunt, but they’ve also had trouble maintaining leads, shooting the basketball, and establishing a true offensive identity.
Intense highs and lows are the hallmark of the modern “Knicks experience.” Julius Randle embodies this to a tee. He made the All-Star roster because there’s been more good than bad. The only question remaining is whether these Knicks will do the same as a team.