While some players questioned the decision by the NBA to hold an All-Star Game this season with a pandemic still raging, Julius Randle never did, hopeful that for the first time in his career he would be selected.
Tuesday night he got his wish. Randle was named by the Eastern Conference coaches as a reserve for the team. His numbers were All-Star worthy, averaging 23.2 points, 11 rebounds and 5.5 assists, entering Tuesday’s game against Golden State. But more than that he has emerged this season as the clear leader, on the floor in the locker room, for the Knicks.
Randle had a team-high 25 points and 10 rebounds as Golden State defeated the Knicks, 114-106, Tuesday night.
With fans in the Garden for the first time this season Randle addressed the crowd before the game and while he attempted to thank them and welcome them, his words were drowned out by chants of, "M-V-P." His mother, who he has been unable to visit at her home in Dallas, offered a congratulatory message on the jumbotron.
"It was really special," Randle said. "It was surreal in a sense. Everything you could dream of. It just seemed like it all came to fruition. 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. It was definitely an amazing moment for me and my family. And it was definitely special for sure."
Randle had put up numbers that were similar to All-Star players before, but was looked at it in some ways as a compiler. But with Tom Thibodeau and the new coaching staff in place Randle has become something more, a clear leader and spokesman while the Knicks are still trying to reach .500.
"I think I get that validation how they play me every night. With the double teams," Randle said. "How they try to game plan, all that type of stuff. Obviously the All-Star nod would be amazing. Every player strives to do that. Work extremely hard to put yourself in those positions. I’m not going to downplay that. It would be amazing. I just think over the course of my career, from year to year, jumping to this year, the improvement is what I’m most proud of."
Randle is the first Knick to make the game since Kristaps Porzingis in 2018.
"I’ve said this many times, I think his numbers speak for themselves," Thibodeau said. "It’s the impact on winning. I know how his teammates feel about him, I know how the coaching staff, our organization, our fans feel about him. He’s certainly being recognized in our eyes and hopefully the rest of the league will see it that way. But he’s had a monster season and he’s the engine that makes us go."
Julius Randle's All-Star season so far
*-entering Tuesday's game vs. Golden State