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Julius Randle: un-cool expressionist All-Star

If he were a painting he’d be in the Louvre, and possibly Norwegian, too.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

You know “The Scream”? By Edvard Munch?

Munch is my favorite painter. Maybe because he’s an expressionist, something I’m not comfortable being. Expressionist painters warped reality in their works to reflect their own feelings. It won’t shock you to know Munch’s paintings mostly share the same vibe of his most famous work. This one’s called “Ashes.”

“Love and Pain.”

He even titled this 1894 work “Anxiety.” Talk about ahead of your time: Munch was the Wilt Chamberlain of neuroses.

I adore Munch’s work because they imply so much more than they share. As a child bored in school, I dreamed of escaping my classroom, fleeing the building, finding a space of natural land — a forest, a field, whatever — and just living there. No school, no job, no money — just life, thought and reflection. Even after realizing that wasn’t likely to happen for me, I have always adored anything that makes the world seem bigger. So a still-life painting that suggests history, angst, tragedy and emotional volatility beyond what its subjects are actually doing? Scratches me right where I itch.

If modern art is more your thing, let’s move in a different direction. Here’s RJ Barrett making Jimmy Butler look like a turnstile he’s no intention of paying.

And here’s Obi Toppin with the turnaround J.

Note the seeming ease and beauty of both buckets. They call soccer the beautiful game, but basketball is no less easy on the eyes. Even its inversions show symmetry: Barrett, his game built on strength, avoiding contact with the also-powerful Butler, so instead of colliding there’s eliding; Obi, an athletic nova, performing a simple move with elegance and precision.

Can you see Julius Randle pulling off either of those moves? I can’t. Randle, like Munch, is an expressionist. Everything is extra with him. Even when he dons his cape to do good, agents of chaos lurk in the nearby dark. The sequence below? Distinctly Randle’s energy.

After the Knicks lost Tuesday to the L.A. Lakers, a couple Twitter Knick fans questioned me for my Randle love. Some of their critique I found unfair, like saying Randle, 28, should be “embarrassed” about being outplayed by LeBron James, who’s 38. The league has spent the past 20 years being embarrassed by LeBron. No need to scapegoat.

Other complaints I can’t wash my hands of so easily, because I’ve made them, too. Randle’s body language, especially expressing negativity toward teammates, is worse than Elfrid Payton’s outside shooting. At the end of the third quarter, Randle was dribbling up the floor and seemed like he was going to give Deuce McBride a dribble hand-off. Either McBride didn’t realize that or there was confusion over where exactly the exchange would take place; either way, Randle was called for palming, and somehow even before he’d finished the violation he was demonstrably blaming McBride.

Later, with 4:22 left in the game, Randle had a jump ball against Bam Adebayo. Quentin Grimes wasn’t where Randle wanted him, nor was Isaiah Hartenstein, so Randle directed them. It wasn’t scandalous, but it also wasn’t neutral. He even showed his annoyance with the ref for having his hand on Randle’s arm. By his standards, the angst in these gesticulations was mellow; by any other Knicks’ standards, they’d be unheard of.

That’s pro’ly what I find so easy to root for when it comes to him. There’s obvious evidence Randle is a human being struggling with something. Maybe he’s trying to control some inner fire and find him some inner peace. You see the breathing and meditation he does before games; you see it every time he goes to the foul line. He’s trying, trying so hard he’s obviously struggling, and we don’t like our guys to be obviously struggling. It’s un-cool.

Carmelo Anthony was mad cooler than Randle. Melo had the vibe of a man who could not care less what the masses made of him. I don’t say that as a mark against him, either — when tens if not hundreds of millions of people know of you and follow your work, and make it their business to publicly comment on it — and you — you can easily lose yourself in that. Boundaries are healthy. Melo’s boundary was an electrified moat with Terminators hiding beneath its surface. Terminators wearing bucket hats.

Randle is an expressionist. Not only can’t he hide what’s going on, he can’t control it. There’s some Bruce Banner there — not Mark Ruffalo’s Disney-fied Hulk. I’m talking Bill Bixby’s Bruce David.

My father grew up with a Hulk who the bottle turned green. Terrorized his whole family. So my father was hardcore Banner: keep the anger deep inside, never let it out, never . . . until you can’t control it anymore, and it bursts like a volcano. I’m my father’s son, and an impressionist: from a distance shapes are recognizable, but the closer you get the harder it is to tell boundaries. My former fiancee used to say I could be ecstatic, depressed or in unbearable physical pain and from the outside it all looked the same. I don’t think Randle could do that. I’m not sure I could ever be as open and vulnerable in the moment like he is — and if you don’t think lashing out at others before the arrow can point at you is vulnerability, you’ve led a sheltered life, loves.

Munch said he came up with the idea for “The Scream” while out for a walk. The sun was going down, and as it did the clouds turned red and he sensed “an infinite scream passing through nature.” Left unacknowledged: his sister had been committed to an asylum near where he was walking. Like his artwork, there was a larger story roiling inside Munch than the surface was showing. I figure Julius Randle and I are members of that same tribe. Maybe I could teach him to hide things better. Surely he could show me how to share things more clearly. I often wonder what it’d be like one day to just start screaming and never stop.