Julius Randle and the New York Knicks began the 2021-22 season with a thrilling double-overtime win against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden. The reigning Most Improved Player of the Year finished with 35 points, eight rebounds, and nine assists while shooting 12-of-27 from the field, 3-of-8 from beyond the arc, and a perfect 8-of-8 from the free-throw line.
Randle was both excited and exhausted after the game. He played 46 minutes and told ESPN’s Lisa Salters during the postgame interview on the Garden court that he couldn’t wait to get in his bed.
Unfortunately for Randle, his bank account will be a little lighter after what transpired following the game.
Julius Randle fined $15K for throwing ball in stands
Randle was fined $15,000 for throwing the ball in the stands after the Knicks-Celtics game. The All-Star forward threw the ball in celebration of New York’s double-overtime victory. He told reporters he might fight the fine.
“We’ll see what happens. I didn’t know it was a thing, but it’s fine. That’s really all it was, more celebrating,” Randle said, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. “I didn’t toss it anywhere or in any direction or trying to do anything. It was emotions. Excitement from the first game, and I was happy it was over with. It was two overtimes. Everybody was exhausted.”
Randle signed a four-year, $117 million extension with the Knicks in the offseason. He obviously has enough money to pay the fine, but his wife isn’t happy about the ball toss or the fact that he missed two free throws late in a preseason game against the Washington Wizards: “Yeah, she’s mad at both,” Randle said with a smile.
The Knicks made the playoffs in 2020-21 for the first time since 2012-13. After adding Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier in the offseason, the team is expected to make the postseason again, and Randle will once again have to be their engine.
Julius Randle is Knicks’ MVP
Randle was spectacular in 2020-21. He averaged 24.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists en route to winning the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. The Knicks won 41 games and had homecourt advantage against the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the 2021 playoffs.
However, Atlanta defeated New York in five games, mainly because Randle struggled in his first playoff series. The Kentucky product averaged 18.0 points and 11.6 rebounds and shot a woeful 29.8% overall. The only reason the Knicks didn’t get swept is Derrick Rose had a stellar series and carried them to a Game 2 victory by scoring 26 points off the bench.
For the Knicks to reach the playoffs again and win a series this time around, Randle must learn from his mistakes against the Hawks.
“Just going back watching the film, I could have made the game more simple,” Randle said at Knicks media day. “Part of that was me being me, putting a lot on my shoulders. So I just feel like it was overcomplicated.”
Randle has a high usage rate with the Knicks, meaning he has the ball in his hands a lot. Ball-dominant players tend to turn the ball over often. On opening night, the Texas native had seven turnovers against the Celtics and averaged 4.6 versus the Hawks in the postseason. That’s an area of Randle’s game he must improve.
All-Star has to value each possession
Just like his wife wants him to value their money, Randle has to value each possession by taking better care of the ball. A team can’t consistently win if their top guy is a high turnover player, no matter how many points he scores.
The additions of Walker and Fournier should take some of the offensive burden off Randle’s shoulders. He doesn’t have to be Superman every night for the Knicks to win anymore. Simplifying the game by taking open shots and not contested ones will benefit Randle.
It remains to be seen if Randle will fight the $15,000 fine he received from the NBA. What is certain is that the 26-year-old is motivated to prove his naysayers wrong and lead the Knicks to a postseason series win in 2022.