Late in the third quarter against the Suns Friday night, Knicks’ Julius Randle was ejected for a needless shove of Cameron Johnson after the two battled for rebound position on a play. Without Randle, who had already scored 25 in the game, the Knicks lost in dramatic fashion on a Johnson 3-pointer.
That ejection highlights a growing concern among the Knicks front office about Randle’s state of mind this season, reports Marc Berman at the New York Post.
The source said Randle didn’t come into training camp in the same type of sensational shape as he did last season, before Thibodeau’s first year guiding the Knicks. Perhaps that prevented him from being the type of two-way player — giving energy on both sides of the ball — that he was during his second team All-NBA season.
Randle has seemed angry all year, battling with fans through his “thumbs-down’’ gesture, battling with referees, battling with assistant coaches, battling with Johnson when the Knicks had all the momentum and were on the verge of snapping their six-game slide.
Randle was an All-NBA player a year ago and won the Most Improved Player award, but this season has regressed. More than scoring 4.2 fewer points a game, he has seen his efficiency drop — he is shooting 30.1% from 3 this season, down from 41.1% a season ago. His stats, especially advanced stats, are down across the board, but it doesn’t take advanced math to see Randle has been good but not the elite player he was a season ago. After signing a four-year, $117 million contract extension that kicks in next season, Randle has not lived up to that billing and New York rightfully has long-term concerns about that contract if Randle doesn’t bounce back.
Randle’s struggles and what can turn him around is one of a range of things the Knicks’ front office needs to address this coming offseason after New York has fallen from the No. 4 seed to out of the postseason altogether (as of this moment). There is no one answer, but getting last season’s Randle back is part of the equation.