CHARLESTON, S.C. — Julius Randle rarely is a presence on social media, and mostly just family photos when he does surface. But a month ago, still working his way back from offseason surgery, he posted a stark photo of himself from behind and in front seated in a stone building with the caption, “Be like water.”
The reference was to a quote from Bruce Lee, who passed away long before Randle was born. But the message was a simple one for Randle who has endured his share of criticism and chaos even while earning All-NBA honors in two of the last three seasons.
“You [expletive], that’s what it was about,” Randle said, laughing loudly. “Dealing with all of you on a daily basis.”
When he stopped laughing he explained the broader meaning, noting, “I think my whole career being able to adapt, just my versatility being able to adapt to certain situations, just go with the flow. That’s what it’s about. Not reacting to certain stuff. Yeah, Bruce got a lot of hidden gems. He was ahead of his time.”
And it has seemed like a different Randle through the first two days of the preseason — media day Monday and then the first workout at The Citadel Tuesday. He looks different — hair cut short and perhaps a little slimmer after offseason conditioning while he rehabilitated from a surgical procedure to clean up his left ankle. The injury shut Randle down for the end of the regular season and then when he hurt it again in the playoffs he was a shell of the player he had been, struggling as the Knicks fell to Miami in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
While social media has been filled with critics he remains the only player on the Knicks roster to earn All-NBA honors or even to make an All-Star team, no small feat for a team returning nearly intact to try to move forward with at least two teams in the East stacked with talent. This change in attitude is not something that has just taken hold. He appeared on Paul George’s podcast in June and spoke about lessons learned over his time in New York, starting with, “When I got to New York, I’d say first, first thing first, like 101, if you want like a lesson, don’t, don’t do thumbs-down,” he said, referring to his gesture at the Garden fans two seasons ago. “Like, I did that. That didn’t work out. Maybe that was my immaturity. But yeah, don’t, don’t do that. But I honestly love it because it’s made me the player I am today. It pushes me. It all depends on how you look at it. But it can be tough for some people. And it’s been tough for me.”
He spoke then and again Tuesday about continuing to grow and to improve his offensive efficiency, earlier looking at Miami’s Jimmy Butler as an example of continued growth. “I think my efficiency will be a lot better this year,” he said Tuesday. “I think I understand the game at a higher level, so I think it will allow me to be a more efficient player, for sure. Shooting efficiency. Just how I play in general. … I’m always going to keep improving my game. But understanding of what I’m trying to get to out there. I think my understanding is a lot clearer, for sure.”
Notes & quotes: While his former Villanova teammate Donte DiVincenzo was the lone addition to the Knicks rotation this summer, Josh Hart did opt into his contract and sign a four-year, $81 million extension. “I wanted to be in New York, so opted in. I knew there were other targets that they were going for, but opting in just felt like the best chance, the best move to go with at that time. And then fortunately, we were able to get a contract extension figured out. … Now, I got to build a wine cellar. Get some good wine in there. Get a country club out there in Westchester, and then I’ll be good to go, man. That’s the only two things left. I’m in New York, got paid. Now, it’s just wine cellar, country club.”