PHILADELPHIA — By the time he finally sat down in front of a camera for his Zoom interview Monday night in Brooklyn Julius Randle had calmed down, the emotion that had him raging as the game ended subsided.
But it was out of character and odd to see Randle when the final seconds had ticked off in the Knicks loss to the Nets pursuing referee Scott Foster, having to be halted by teammates, security and even executive William Wesley. After Obi Toppin got in the way near center court, Wesley guided Randle to the locker room, trailing behind as Randle made one last point, knocking over a chair before entering the tunnel from the court.
Randle conducted his interview, a brief interaction in which he mostly refused to talk about what had transpired on the court, the traveling call with 3.2 seconds left that had taken away an opportunity to tie the score and left the Knicks and Randle with an empty feeling after nearly pulling off a huge comeback.
The tirade on the court was uncharacteristic and it was important that the Knicks had him back to the on-court and locker room leader he has become with a game at Wells Fargo Arena against the 76ers less than 24 hours away when the game ended in Brooklyn.
"Emotions are a big part of the game," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "So you never want to take that away from a player. You want everyone to be themselves. But you don’t want it to cross the line where it can cost the team.
"I thought it was a reaction to a tough call with a game on the line. I think that’s normal. And then he calmed down right after the game. I thought he played terrific, fought really hard. Put us in position to tie it up, even win it, but we fell short."
Randle had done his part to get them to that point, finishing with 33 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. And he did it with 44 minutes played, having little regard for another game against another Eastern Conference power on tap the next night. As he was on the court working out before the game in Philadelphia he was dancing while assistant coach Kenny Payne was trying to get him to work.
It probably didn’t help him to put aside his emotions, but the NBA issued a last two-minute report Tuesday that said that Foster had made the correct call when he whistled Randle for traveling after Kyrie Irving had gotten a hand on the ball as Randle rose for a three-point attempt and came down with the ball.
According to the report, "As Randle jumps into the air, Irving makes contact with the ball, but does not dislodge it and does not cause Randle to return to the floor with possession. Therefore Randle must pass or shoot before returning to the floor. Since he does return to the floor with the ball still in his possession, this is a traveling violation."
After the game speaking to a pool reporter, Foster explained, "The defender was deemed to touch the ball, but not cause it to be dislodged or loose. Upon that when the player alights he cannot purposely drop the ball or dribble the ball or be first to touch after the dropped the ball."
If his pregame dancing indicated he had moved forward it put him back on a track that he has taken since training camp, leading the team.
"I’m just happy for him," said 76ers coach Doc Rivers, who had coached him in the All-Star Game and has known him since their days working for different teams in Los Angeles. "I get information just talking to Austin [Rivers] and Austin raves about what type of human being he is. And how he’s a great passer and how he outworks everybody in the gym, and how all his teammates love him.
"Julius Randle didn’t have that narrative before. So for a veteran player like Austin who has been in the league for seven, eight years, saying that about a younger guy, tells you about Julius Randle, and what type of guy he is. So it’s cool. I love to hear stuff like that about players. I’m really happy for Julius. I spent a little time with him at the All-Star Game. He’s one of those guys who brings light to the locker room."