It turned out the sources were right.
Julius Randle practiced with his New York Knicks teammates on Friday ahead of the matinee matchup against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday, confirming the reports leaked on Thursday.
Shout out to Fred Katz of The Athletic as he was the first man out there echoing Randle’s words from the MSG Training Facility in Greenburgh, NY.
Julius Randle says he's still working back from ankle surgery: "To think that I would come into this season and just be Julius off the bat is kinda naive...I’m just thankful for guys like RJ, guys like Jalen; they’ve been able to carry the load while I get back"— Fred Katz (@FredKatz) November 10, 2023
Full quote here: pic.twitter.com/Sjp0SJacgy
“I had surgery four and a half months ago, and it’s lower-extremity surgery,” Randle told reporters following Friday’s practice, “so to think that I would come into this season and just be Julius right off the bat is kinda naive.”
On Thursday, Stefan Bondy of the New York Post quoted sources telling NYP that Randle had “resisted resting” amid suggestions from the Knicks staff to at least limit his minutes a bit during the first few games of the season.
As sources put it, Randle had been “operating at about 70 percent,” and “limited by pain” in the six-game stretch that saw him fail to break the 20-point barrier to start the year as well as the Knicks fall to a 2-4 record in that span.
On Friday, having heard about the story, Randle confirmed the information leaked by said sources saying that he never expected to enter the season at peak fitness, adding it’d have been “naive” to project him to do that.
“I’m starting to get better, but it’s a gradual buildup,” Randle said.
He also corroborated that the Knicks staff tried to limit his playing time and his refusal to rest, stating “Obviously, I want to play.”
Randle said, “If I feel like I can help the team win, I [play].” He made clear, however, that “There will be continuous talks with the medical team and the staff” as the season progresses, and that both sides will try to do “What’s best for [Randle] health-wise.”
The All-Star forward mentioned two teammates in particular for helping him navigate the earliest part of the schedule and the Knicks keep their head relatively above water, saying he is “just thankful for guys like RJ and Jalen” as they have been “able to carry the load while I get back and get healthy and start getting better.”
Truth be told, all of the Knicks players have been showing public support for Randle after each game they have played in the first couple of weeks of the season.
Jalen Brunson backed him up following the defeat against the Bucks in the first In-Season Tournament last Friday, saying “It happens. It’s part of basketball. He’s missing shots but we’re still in games. He’s still contributing in a big way. I’m not going to get into all that stuff, but his heart’s still there. He just has to get over this little hump.”
Immanuel Quickley said “I don’t doubt Julius at all,” following the loss to the Cavs last week.
Josh Hart discussed Randle’s slump before the game against the LA Clippers on Monday, blaming his underperformance more on the team than the man, saying “We just have to find a way to get him into rhythm.”
On and on it goes...
Finally, Randle made clear that he’s not going to change his mindset and his approach to the game without regard to his health. “I just love the game. I love competition. I just love being out there, playing for my teammates.
“I just love to play at the end of the day.”
As Randle sees the game, he has to “go out there and compete every chance I get.”
It feels like Randle would hate to reminisce about his career one day and lament not having gone all-in when he could. “A lot of people look back and their career goes by fast and they wish they would’ve done this and that,” he said, “and I’m the type of person—leave no stone unturned.”