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You can understandably gush about rookie point guard Immanuel Quickley, but remember, he is shooting 37.8 percent from the field and missed four games.
It’s a pretty good story, but I’ll stick with Julius Randle as the Knicks’ biggest revelation of the season.
All-Star Voting began Thursday and – rightly so – the Knicks are pumping his candidacy on their social media accounts.
As the Knicks return home from their grueling four-game Western swing to face the Cavaliers, the 6-8, 250-pound Randle deserves your frontcourt voting consideration – even if you can’t cheer him live Friday night at the fan-free Garden.
Randle came into camp in great shape after military boot camp training in his hometown Dallas. But it wasn’t the only change – he is also reunited with former Kentucky assistant coach Kenny Payne.
Payne and Randle have a neat routine before tip-off where Payne acts physically with him as he goes through a shooting motion, roughing him up, preparing him for battle.
MSG Network’s Rebecca Haarlow asked Randle about the routine in a Zoom call Thursday, and Randle smiled like he hasn’t since … Kentucky?
“It’s really just all about me getting into my shot quick,’’ Randle said. “Everything on my shot starts with my base feet and footwork. That’s all it is, using a strong base, using my legs, getting into my shot with speed. That’s funny having not done that drill in a while. He’s been doing that since I was 18 years old at Kentucky.’’
Unless fans from the Bluegrass State chip in, Randle may not get his All-Star berth from online balloting. However, Randle’s remarkable ascension as an elite performer at least has him as a top candidate for Most Improved Player.
For the starting All-Star Team frontcourt, whether the game ever gets played or not, the fans may reflexively choose three from this list: Joel Embiid, Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jimmy Butler and new Eastern Conference candidate Kevin Durant.
Randle? He deserves to get a nod in the coaches’ vote.
There are plenty of big-name forwards in the East, but nobody has been more valuable to his team than the 26-year-old Randle. The Knicks are 8-11. They may be closer 0-19 without Randle’s monstrous play, after an inaugural season in which he disappointed the Knicks faithful.
The numbers sing despite facing double teams constantly. Randle is averaging 22.5 points, 11.3 rebounds and 6.0 assists. His assist average is double last season’s mark.
That’s a turnabout considering a New Orleans scout told me, after the Knicks signed him: “He’s a scorer but also a black hole.”
Load management doesn’t exist with Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks. Randle has played all 19 contests and leads the league in total minutes played. He’s shooting 46.8 percent, improved to 35.6 from 3 and has played a meaner brand of defense.
With the heavy toll, can he keep this up? If he does, he’s an All-Star. Those first six seasons of waiting for him to elevate to that stature is over. Let’s not miss this moment.
When center Mitchell Robinson wasn’t deleting mysterious basketball tweets, he issued a goodie he didn’t have to delete this week.
“This your year my guy,” Robinson tweeted. Attached was a promo of the Knicks’ All-Star campaign and Randle flexing his large biceps.
As point forward, Randle is front page, middle page and final chapter to an opponent’s scouting report. According to sources, coaches are spending their time figuring out a way to limit his damage. Either make him a passer or a scorer, but don’t let him do to both.
According to NBA’s Advanced Stats, Randle’s 84.1 touches per game ranks 12th. His 50.1 frontcourt touches rank fourth.
“Randle has really come into his own as a scorer, playmaker and rebounder,’’ Blazers coach Terry Stotts said last week, when the Knicks were in Portland. “The ball is in his hands more. He’s their best player and they play through him. In his early years, he was a young player with the Lakers. New Orleans was different. But it looks like he’s really adapted into the role as the primary focus of their offense.”
It’s not like this was totally unexpected. The Knicks didn’t give him $60 million on a hunch.
“I always thought he was a very skilled player forth his size,’’ Stotts said. “He can handle, get to the basket, drive either way. His versatility as a mobile big man who can play inside, outside. Everybody saw that early in his career.’’
It’s amazing to still receive emails and hear on social media about how the Knicks should trade Randle, who certainly was for sale in the offseason. He has a team option for $20 million for next year.
Trade him? No, embrace him.
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