Nick Wass/Associated Press
“I knew where we were starting at,” Randle told Sopan Deb of the New York Times. “I knew the challenge I had when I signed here. I signed here with the hopes of being here long-term. I want to be one of the guys that’s part of this team and eventually, hopefully, we are competing for championships and winning championships. That’s my dream. A picture perfect thing for me.”
Randle, 26, is in the midst of a career year, averaging 23.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 29 games while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from three. His points, rebounds, assists and three-point shooting numbers are all career highs.
“If this man is not an All-Star, there’s a problem,” Knicks wing Theo Pinson said in a postgame interview earlier this week after Randle dropped 44 points on the Atlanta Hawks.
More importantly, the 14-15 Knicks have been one of the more pleasant surprises around the NBA to start this season. If the playoffs began today, they’d be the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference.
Randle has been a huge part of that, though Immanuel Quickley’s superb and surprising rookie season (12.5 PPG, 2.7 APG) and the continuing development of RJ Barrett (16.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG) has helped.
But Randle has clearly led the way.
“He’s played an all-around game, strong on both sides of the ball. He’s played an unselfish game. He’s doing it in a number of different ways,” head coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. “He’s playing multiple positions. He’s a point forward, he’s a forward, he’s a center. He’s doing it all. But the most important thing is the impact that he’s having on winning and hopefully it’ll be recognized.”
Randle isn’t going to be a starter on the All-Star team in an Eastern Conference frontcourt that will include Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Kevin Durant. But it’s possible the league’s coaches could name him to the team as a reserve. He would deserve the honor.
As for Randle, a tough 2019-20 season that saw the Knicks finish 21-45 and miss out on playing in the bubble was all the motivation he needed to come back stronger than ever.
“A lot of people may have written me off. A lot of people may have had their doubts or whatever in me. And that was just motivation, that was fuel,” he told reporters. “For me it was just coming back a better player and a better teammate than I was last year.”