On a cold Saturday in Tarrytown, Julius Randle kept the ice between himself, Knicks fans and the media.
The Knicks were holding a media availability for the first time since Thursday’s debacle in New Orleans, and scribes asked Randle to attend practice.
Randle hasn’t spoken to the press since after training on January 11, when the forward grumpily and repeatedly refused to go beyond an Instagram statement that served as an apology for a gesture “STFU” to Knicks fans. The Instagram post may or may not have been written by Randle.
On Saturday, the Knicks unveiled their new spokesperson, RJ Barrett, who shows willingness to face the music after every tough loss. Then out came newly acquired Barrett Duke’s former teammate Cam Reddish, who is slated to make his Knicks debut Sunday in a Garden Matinee against the Clippers.
There was no sign of Randle, who disappeared on and off the field in a stunning fall from grace.
The Knicks took the hit for Randle, absorbing the NBA’s $25,000 fine for Randle who didn’t speak to the media after Thursday’s resounding loss.
The Knicks encouraged the press to write that the club had not made Randle available. It seems far-fetched, because Randle’s media boycott has gone on too long for anyone to believe.
It was a build-up fine because Randle blew the media after eight of the last nine games. The immaturity started on January 4 – when the Knicks beat the Pacers.
The silence didn’t snap Randle out of his funk. This behavior probably confirms that he will no longer be named to the All-Star Game.
The reserves – based on the coaches’ vote – will be announced on February 3. Randle was not in the top 10 forwards in the Eastern Conference in All-Star fan voting, which ends this weekend.
There are a ton of speculations regarding Randle’s regression, including the empty gymnasium thesis, but an NBA staffer blames him for signing a $117 million contract extension.
“When you sign this type of contract, there’s a feeling of entitlement, the feeling that now I’m the guy,” the staff man said. “He believes he has to do more and he has to be more selfish. He’s had success and now he feels a greater responsibility.”
To maintain the company’s course, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau played under the assumption that the Knicks stopped Randle from talking after a four-point, minus-26 disaster against the Pelicans on Thursday in which he swerved. is booed all night.
If Randle really agreed to talk, the only conspiracy theory is that Knicks management feared he was going off the rails or that he asked for a trade and they didn’t want him.
“The most important thing is to focus on the next game and to win,” said Thibodeau. “So we thought the best thing for the team was to do that. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
More likely, the Knicks didn’t want Randle to be fined again as he tried to get out of that hole. In the last nine games since he stopped coming to press conferences, Randle is averaging 16.8 points and shooting 38.9 percent, including 22.9 percent from 3-point field.
Against New Orleans, Randle couldn’t reach the basket and became too hesitant.
The Pelicans used smaller wings and gave up on Randle’s suddenly wayward 3-point shot. The 2020-21 second-team All-NBA selection found no angle against a scheme the Pelicans may have stolen from Atlanta’s plan for the playoffs last spring.
“I think we’re at our best when he attacks the rim,” Thibodeau said. “The more he attacks the rim, the better. And it’s not just his score, but it’s the rim readings and sprays that trigger.’
Except none of that happens. It’s the main reason the Knicks (22-24) look like a lottery team. The snake’s head has been taken off.
But the worst is the way Randle handles this adversity. He’s showing signs he’s ill-equipped to be a superstar in the NBA’s biggest media market.
Randle could never have imagined this after signing this contract extension. He seems stunned that fans turned on him so quickly after a crash early in the season.
He has to get over it, because it snowballs. Thibodeau seemed confident that Randle would reappear, at least on the court.
“Look, he’s been in the league for a long time,” Thibodeau said. “And so he played at a high level. I’ve seen a lot of guys go through periods where they didn’t shoot well or a low scoring game. It’s knowing that you did it. If you haven’t, there’s a bigger problem. He did it at a high level. It will bounce for you. He’s a great player.”
After waiting nearly two hours for Randle, Reddish was huddled in a private room with Rebecca Haarlow for an MSG Network exclusive, then escorted to the practice center’s interview headquarters.
Maybe it was symbolism: No more old, new.