How Julius Randle found his joy and regained his All-Star status

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) reacts to a free throw as Brooklyn Nets forward Mikal Bridges (1) watches the game during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in New York City. .  (AP Photo/Jesse Alcheh)
Forward Julius Randle has had a successful year for the Knicks with the sixth seed. (AP Photo/Jesse Alcheh)

Julius Randle is at ease these days. A wide, bright smile spreads across his face. He’s far from last season’s depression, when his shooting performance plummeted after a breakthrough 2020-21 All-NBA campaign that also earned him Most Improved Player honors. The Knicks suffered a 21–22 season fiasco along with Randle’s offensive scoring, crashing out of the tournament play-in after earning home court advantage in the 2021 playoffs.

“Last year was tough. I am a competitor at heart. You’re addicted to winning and want to experience it,” Randle told Sportzshala Sports. “As for me, I was not in the best shape, and we did not build on what he did a year earlier. So it was hard. It’s been a disappointing year.”

His summer began when his rivals were still fighting in the playoffs. Randle found himself lounging around the house, reflecting on what had happened and the momentum he had missed. The skipped jumpers scrolled through his head. “Damn, this almost depresses my wife,” Randle said. “And she’s like, ‘Damn, let’s get out of the house.’ ”

The star New York forward has always dreamed of a vacation in Italy, so Kendra Randle booked a trip to make her husband’s dream come true. They gazed in awe at the Colosseum and gazed up at the domed ceiling of the Pantheon. “It refreshed me a bit,” Randle said. “It was amazing to see, to get acquainted with the local culture. Going to Rome and just seeing the history was very inspiring for me. It was sort of the beginning of my summer and it sort of went from there.”

Shortly thereafter, in early September, Randle set out for the beaches of Nassau, dragging his feet in defensive sand slides. “I just had to leave. Take a break from the game. Travel around the world. Spend time, reunite with my family, my children,” he said. “Just overestimate Julius Randle as a person. I can’t be a great basketball player if I’m not balanced as a person.”

He definitely rediscovered the balance that brought Randle to the All-Star Game for the first time two seasons ago. Randle posted a career-high 24.8 points per game and a career-best 10.8 rebounds to earn his second NBA Coaches Award as an All-Star reserve. He comes to the line more often than ever before (seven attempts per game) and also throws the most three-point attempts (eight per game) he could ever think of. thanks to off-season support from Knicks assistant Johnny Bryant.

New York went 33–27 to the All-Star Game and solidified in the postseason with a 6th-place finish. The acquisition of point guard Jalen Brunson as a free agent certainly helped Randle, while the acquisition of Josh Hart on time gave Madison Square Garden more energy.

Randle smiles through it all, not even hinting that he is giving the thumbs up to the noisy crowd.

“I just needed to get my peace and joy back,” he said. “I just needed to look at the game and life in general again. But it was also that I learned a lot about myself.”

The following conversation with Randle has been lightly edited for clarity.

When did you actually find out about participating in the Star 3 Points competition? It doesn’t look like you’ve had many turns. Some guys get a ton of practice with the format.

“I think I found out on Thursday evening?” I was just fooling around, man, honestly. I just worked out one Friday and I thought, “OK, I’ll just try.” Why not? I was here.”

There wasn’t much time to figure out where to put your money ball and position yourself to shoot from the rack.

“I was at the gym the day before and did something at the time that was most comfortable for me and I was like, ‘I’m going to ride with this and see what happens.'” [Randle was eliminated in the first round.]

Was it a different experience when your children [Kyden and Jayce] with you all weekend?

“Oh, it was amazing. Kaidan, he’s the most fun of all. He is most proud to have me in this game and this experience. He loves it.”

Do you remember Steph’s video [Curry] sits outside while Dell Curry competes in the 1994 3-point contest. Is there such a possibility in the back of your mind during all this?

“For me, I’m pretty young in my career. He’s at the age where he understands something, and his brother, after all, does too. He was with me, I gave birth to him when I was 22 years old. He can connect with me and see the years and years of my career. It’s the best thing to just be able to share this experience with him. So that he can see these things, for example, at a young age and know that he can do these things too, or what he wants to do, everything is possible if he just works on it. That’s what’s important to me.”

How much time or effort is spent on his instagram account?

“Oh, that’s all my wife, man. She takes care of all this. [Laughs]”.

I mean, it seems like there could be a whole PR department behind this.

“Yeah man! She’s doing a great job. She’s doing a great job.”

Does this mean that being an All-Star for the second time means something more to you? There are guys who only get it once and people kind of blame them for it, even though they obviously made it to the All-Star Game, but it’s kind of a thing that detracts from the achievement if it only happens once. Getting there a second time adds some extra stamp to you?

“I mean, it’s a great honor. I’m humiliated, you know? But to do it once is an honor. To do it twice is not a coincidence. As for me, I just want to keep enjoying it. More than anything, I have just regained my joy and love for the game. And the results are visible, it’s obvious that I’m here and our team is winning games. That’s what it’s all about.”

I’ve always wanted to ask you this. [Former NBA player] Ed Davis told me that in the summer of 2014 after you were drafted by the Lakers, you guys were training with Kobe Bryant and you guys were running like 17 year olds. [a fundamentals drill] as well as possession of the ball throughout the court and a throw with the left hand. What do you remember about newbie Julius Randle going to the gym with Kobe?

“I don’t remember random things, but I remember that we had a two-hour practice and we didn’t touch the basketball. Just straight defensive training, technique and all. I remember the workouts we had before, they were amazing, especially for me when I first started playing in the NBA and could see it up close. And it was cool for him to take me under his wing.”

And he was 36. He recovered from his injury to play for a rebuilding team. He had nothing more to prove.

“Had Nothing to prove. Nothing to prove.”

Okay, last one. I have last year’s New Yorker cover hanging in my room. Three Brooklyn stars – Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden – all stand above you and R. J. Barrett. But you two are the only ones left here in the city. Does this rivalry between the Knicks and the Nets mean anything special to you, especially that your team survived that version of the Brooklyn team?

“It’s just crazy how life works. It’s not a coincidence how things happen. Everyone did what was best for them. Luckily, up until this point in my career, it had been best for me and RJ to be on the Knicks. So hopefully we can just keep developing it all.”


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