Questions answered, problem solved?
According to sources quoted by Stefan Bondy of the New York Post in a revealing story published on Thursday, Nov. 9, Julius Randle was “operating at about ‘70 percent’” throughout the first few games of the season.
Bondy’s source told him that Randle was “too proud to sit,” even though the New York Knicks staff recommended he do that through “the opening week-plus” of the season.
According to the report, Randle was “limited by pain” in his ankle following surgery last summer, and he “resisted attempts from the Knicks to get him to rest,” per multiple sources.
It’s not news that Randle had a disastrous start to the season. Things got so ugly at a point during the past couple of weeks that everybody was aware of how historically bad JR was playing, publishing endless messages on X and whatnot researching stats to put everything in context.
Through the first six games, in which the Knicks amassed a negative 2-4 record beating only the Cavs and Hawks, Randle averaged 13.7 points barely shooting 27 percent from the floor and 22 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
The effort was there, but so was the stubbornness (pride?) according to this report.
Following that bad start to the year, Randle seems to have found a better rhythm of late with back-to-back games in which he’s finally broken for 23+ points shooting 42%+ from the field.
That doesn’t mean, mind you, that the ankle problems have disappeared overnight in the three spanning from the loss at Milwaukee last Friday to the win against the Clippers on Monday.
Obviously, this being a Randle-Thibs tandem we’re talking about, we will never know what the hell is really going on with that injury because 1) Julius Randle is durable as hell even if he has to play on one leg and 2) Tom Thibodeau didn’t limit Randle’s minutes just one bit through those six games (MP: 34, 34, 34, 31, 35, 39).
You gotta appreciate Randle’s hustle and “proudness,” if you wish to call it that. At the end of the day, from the 2016 season on, JR has appeared in 602 games of a possible 648 including the 2023 schedule to date. He has 19,157 regular-season minutes in his odometer and 19,667 including the playoffs. No joke.
It’s hard to blame an individual here for the careless overuse or Randle through the first few games.
The Knicks decided to get into the regular season without a natural four in their roster after flipping Obi Toppin for two-guard Donte DiVincenzo, and they have been using Josh Hart as Randle’s main replacement at the power forward position (47% usage at the position, per Basketball-Reference.com).
With RJ Barrett missing a couple of games, things got even worse in terms of finding solutions for fixing that hole, making it impossible to bump Randle’s minutes down.
So far, Randle has talked multiple times saying the ankle injury and surgery effects are not lingering in any way. “I’ve always been an inside-out player,” Randle said after Wednesday’s win over San Antonio. “That’s how I’ve been more efficient. So just gotta keep building off that and keep getting more efficient as the games go by,” he added referencing his preference for driving to the rim.
Thibodeau said Randle, “looked really good in practice” on Sunday.
“It was good,” Randle said after beating the Clippers on Monday. “We took a step forward today. Just got to keep building on it.”
Quoth Thibodeau after that same game: “I think that the two days [in between games] are good,” he said. “Got a chance to recover.”