Julius Randle had a very good season in 2020-21, then signed for very good money — up to $117 million for four years, per a league source.
But there are those who wonder whether he can duplicate a season in which he averaged career highs in points (24.1), rebounds (10.2) and assists (6.0), was second-team All-NBA and was named the league’s most improved player.
Randle had a message for such skeptics on Friday on a video call with reporters after the Knicks announced his new contract: "I think people who would say that really just don’t know [expletive] about me," he said.
"If you watched my career and you’ve watched me play every year, I’ve gotten better, so that just speaks to my mindset and who I am as a player. So, they can have fun with that take."
There was reason for concern after a subpar performance against the Hawks in the playoffs, during which Randle averaged 18 points, 11.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists and shot 29.8% from the floor. Atlanta won in five games.
But at 26, Randle figures to be in his prime and now will remain a part of what the Knicks began building last season. That is the way he wanted it.
"It feels amazing; it’s everything I envisioned — what I want to be a part of for the rest of my career," he said. "This is a step toward that."
He called the deal "a no-brainer," citing his desire for security and stability, and the belief he has in the franchise brain trust to continue developing a championship contender.
"When I signed here two years ago, this was my vision, to be able to lock in something long term and build something from the ground up," he said. "That’s what we’re doing."
Randle could have rolled the dice on letting his contract expire and perhaps signed a max contract next year. Committing now eliminated any risk and gave the Knicks more financial flexibility.
"I’ve had stops along the way in my career where I haven’t been happy playing," he said. "I understand both sides of it, how hard this game can be, how hard it can be being on a team where the chemistry is not right and it’s tough showing up for a job every night.
"For me, I truly enjoy showing up to my job every day, whether it was practice, whether it was flying, whether it was playing a game. I truly enjoy it and I’m happy being a Knick."
He added, "We’re all a family, we enjoy being around each other, and we have that trust. So even if I left money on the table, I trust that in the long run it’s going to pay off."
Randle said he has been working on his game, physically and mentally, this offseason, but declined to reveal specifics. He said he would miss teammates who have left such as Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton, but he praised the Knicks for adding Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier.
"It’s going to be huge for us," he said. "Those guys can really make shots, or they can spread the floor, make plays. It’s going to give us a lot of firepower.
"So I’m extremely excited, and as long as we keep our main thing the main thing, which is defending and playing hard every night, I feel like we’re going to be an even better team."