While the Knicks continue to try to produce a semblance of consistent performance night after night and, really, even within games, one player has begun to find his stride.
Julius Randle has scored at least 30 points in each of the last three games and is averaging 32.7 points per game in that span.
The Knicks have had mixed results in the games — an embarrassing loss at home to the shorthanded Wizards, a win over the Nets in Brooklyn and a win over an even more depleted Wizards squad. In the last two, you could point to defensive performances for the victories. But to survive, the Knicks needed offense from somewhere, and Randle provided it.
“I’m just playing with confidence, man,” he said. “I put in way too much work, sacrifice way too much of my free time with family, friends, whatever it is, to try to get better at my craft.
“Like I said, things are going to have to turn around eventually. I just take things game by game; focus, not really worry about the big picture. When it comes to that, just take it game by game, keep working, keep my head down, keep working, keep trying to lead these guys with the right spirit, the right attitude. Most important thing is the win. That’s all I care about is the win.”
The wins have been hard to come by and the losses have weighed heavily on Randle, who was the lone free agent signed to a deal guaranteed beyond this season and the highest-priced of the seven free agents the Knicks brought in.
He has flourished since the coaching change from David Fizdale to Mike Miller. He shot 44.2% from the field and 24.1% from beyond the arc while averaging 16.8 points per game during Fizdale’s 22 games as coach. Now he has upped all of those numbers in 11 games under Miller — 47.9% shooting, 37.4% from three-point range and an average of 22.6 points per game. He also has reduced his turnovers from 3.3 per game to 2.1.
“I prepare the same. I work the same,” Randle said. “That doesn’t change. Coach is doing a great job of putting me in great spots. My teammates are putting me in great spots. Everything I’m doing out there, I’m trying to do efficiently and best for the team. The only thing that matters is the win. If I have to go out and be aggressive and efficient, I’m going to do that because I just want to win.
“Hard work always gets rewarded. I know how much time I’ve put into this game, how hard I’ve worked. I see how hard the guys around me work. Like I’ve said, it can’t rain forever. Eventually, it has to turn if you keep buying in and keep buying in as a group.”
His coach sees the impact and heartily agrees. “He has been fantastic,” Miller said. “I mean, he’s had obviously a very good year. These last three, four games, whatever it’s been, he’s played at such a level, and it’s not just the scoring. He’s doing so many different things. But the scoring is all timely, it’s when we need a basket.
“He’s got such a confidence about him. He’s making all the plays. He’s really conscious of doing the other things. He’s really impacting [the games].”