Julius Randle took his seat in front of the Zoom camera preparing for his media session and before he could be asked a question, Knicks’ teammate Theo Pinson popped in front of him and shouted, "Your 2021 Eastern Conference Player of the Week, Julius Randle, Kentucky University, national championship runner-up."
Randle laughed loudly before pointing out that he had mangled the University of Kentucky and taking a shot at Pinson’s own University of North Carolina pedigree. Maybe that put on display that in earning his latest honor, Randle still feels like it is the team that matters, the team success that helps him to get recognized, the team unity that has led to his most important improvement — as a leader.
"Honestly, it’s really about the team," Randle said. "Me and [Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau] will talk about it all the time. And Thibs tells the team all the time, 'when a team does well, everybody’s value goes up.' We’re playing well as a team. As a unit, guys are making me look good. I’m doing my best to try to help other guys out. You know, it’s really just a tribute and an honor to our team, how well we’re playing right now. We’ve just got to keep it going."
The Knicks won all four games last week to help Randle get the award and he scored at least 30 points in each game, averaging 35.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.
"The proof is in the pudding," Nerlens Noel said of Randle’s play. "The work has been put in. I think everything’s coming to fruition."
Randle has already been named an All-Star this season for the first time in his career. He now has a Player of the Week award, is in the mix for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award and even a spot on one of the All-NBA teams.
"As far as all the other stuff, like I said, winning takes care of all that," Randle said. "Everybody gets recognized on a higher level when we’re winning. We’ve just got to keep winning. That’s what we’re focused on as a team. We’ve got goals as a team we want to meet. All that other stuff gets recognized.
"As far as most improved, I don’t take it as a backhanded compliment at all. That’s what you’re supposed to do as a professional. For me, as someone who takes the game seriously, really loves the game of basketball, just looking at the trajectory of my career and every year I’ve done something to improve. It would be a great honor obviously. I just worry about every year trying to add something to my game, come back a better player."