With the pieces around him assembled, Knicks All-NBA forward Julius Randle decided it was time to reinforce the centerpiece, agreeing to a four-year contract extension to secure his future in New York.
Randle and his CAA agents, Aaron Mintz and Steve Heumann, familiar former associates of Knicks president Leon Rose, agreed to a four-year contract extension worth up to $117 million, a league source confirmed. While Randle was expected to remain in place as the cornerstone of the franchise after elevating his game to earn second-team All-NBA honors last season and being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player, he could have played out the final year of his contract and then been eligible for an extension, which would have paid him more than $200 million. This contract, first reported by ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, includes a player option for the final year.
According to the league source, Randle decided to sign the extension now for a number of reasons, including his love for the city, the organization and Knicks fans who serenaded him with chants of "MVP" all season long. While the source indicated that Randle was well aware of what he could have earned by waiting, he also sought to provide the franchise with as much financial flexibility as possible to build a winner in New York as soon as possible and didn’t see the point in waiting.
In the wake of the surprising season for Randle and the Knicks, who finished 41-31 and earned the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference, the team brought back Derrick Rose, Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks. They also reached into the free-agent market and acquired Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker to boost the talent level and ease some of the pressure on Randle to carry the team.
Randle had floated through three franchises in his career after beginning with the Los Angeles Lakers as a lottery pick but breaking his leg just 14 minutes into his pro career. He played four seasons in Los Angeles and then one with New Orleans before joining the Knicks in 2019 on a three-year deal (this final season was a team option the Knicks exercised for $19.8 million). The extension will pick up starting with the 2022-23 season at $23.76 million and escalate from there in 8% raises.
While the contract now protects Randle and his family from the risk of injury or regression, what he did last season hardly indicated that he was a risk for the Knicks. Working on his own in the summer, he reshaped his body and his game. The turnovers and erratic long-range shooting of his first year in New York were a distant memory under the new regime.
Randle led the NBA in minutes played per game last season, absorbing a 37.8-minute-per-game workload while sitting out just one game, and he produced, averaging 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists. He signaled with his play that the Knicks were back after years of dysfunction and he shouted it into the microphone every chance he got at Madison Square Garden, declaring, "We here."
When the season ended with a playoff loss to Atlanta, he reflected on what they had started.
"I think we’re bringing a brand of basketball back that the city can be proud of," Randle said. "So that's really what I mean by that and we have something to build on for the future."
The performance of Randle and the coaching of Tom Thibodeau shifted the reputation of the franchise as they produced wins on the court and admiring nods from players around the league. Randle made an All-Star team for the first time in his career.