BOSTON — Julius Randle apologized Friday for his comments directed at the Madison Square Garden fans. While that may have appeased the fan base, the NBA wasn’t letting it go without punishment, handing him a $25,000 fine Saturday for "the egregious use of profane language during media interviews."
As some would say, curses.
He certainly isn’t the first player or coach to curse. The NBA issued a directive to teams last month attempting to rein in what it believes has been excessive profanity by players and coaches. Randle was a repeat offender this week as the league noted. He used curses following Wednesday’s practice and then again after the game Thursday when he described his thumbs-down gesture to the fans as a message to, "Shut the [expletive] up."
The Knicks, with the home-and-home set against the Celtics moved from Madison Square Garden to TD Garden, hoped that they could move on from the controversy, distanced by a few hundred miles from the fans who had gotten under Randle’s skin — and hopefully he left his social media accounts closed.
"It’s an emotional game," Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. "We all sometimes says things we regret later. He said what he had to say. He moved on. He’s focused on the next game.
"None of us are going to be perfect. I’m pleased what he did. Just get ready for the next game. He’s been here a while and understands New York. Like anyone, you have a bad day at work and you bounce back the next day. Just make sure it’s not two days in a row."
Randle did have two bad days of interviews in a row, at least by the NBA’s standards. But the problems and frustration had been lingering long before he uttered those words. As the team has struggled to repeat the success of last season when they earned the No. 4 seed much of the blame has been placed on his shoulders.
His offensive numbers have dipped in almost every area from last year’s breakout season when he earned second-team All-NBA honors, but more than that the team has performed poorly with him on the court.
Thursday, boos came down and some of the venom may have been directed his way, but it was also sprayed at the entire team — outside of Evan Fournier for a night. While Fournier’s shooting kept the Knicks in striking distance, Thibodeau said after the game that they had started with low energy.
That has been a common denominator, starting slow, falling behind and on nights like Thursday, seeming to be lackadaisical. The team fell behind by 25 in the second quarter and then after battling to close the gap were again down 20 in the third quarter before mounting the comeback that would end with a game-winning shot by RJ Barrett.
The comeback was made possible because Randle, whatever inspired him, turned his play around and got much more aggressive as the game went on. Fournier came off a game in which he was scoreless Tuesday to post a career-best 41 points Thursday. And Barrett missed his first seven shots of the night and was 3-for-14 before hoisting up the game-winning shot.
"You want to build on that day to day," Thibodeau said. "That’s why your mental toughness, the more you put into something, the harder it is to surrender. And so put everything you have into each game.
"You’re not going to shoot great in every game. But there’s a lot of other things you can do. You never know when it will change. Sometimes it’s a hustle play, a deflection and then you get energy. You get a layup or two. Things can change quickly. They can go from very bad to great real fast. And they can go from great to bad, real fast. And you have to navigate both. So be mentally tough when you’re facing adversity."