The New York Knicks went 19-18 during the first half of the 2020-21 season, and Stephen A. Smith couldn’t be happier about it. The ESPN pundit is a lifelong Knicks fan and can’t contain his excitement about the resurgent Knickerbockers.
Led by Julius Randle, the Knicks are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings. The lefty made his first All-Star team this season, and Smith is pleased with what he’s seen from the power forward.
However, Stephen A. Smith didn’t always like Julius Randle.
Stephen A. Smith wasn’t happy when the Knicks signed Julius Randle
During the summer of 2019, the Knicks were supposed to sign Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. However, the two NBA superstars signed with the Brooklyn Nets instead.
After missing out on Durant and Irving, the Knicks signed Julius Randle to a three-year, $62.1 million contract. Stephen A. Smith was very upset about the move since he was expecting New York to get Durant and Irving.
Randle put up good numbers during the 2019-20 season. He averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds while shooting 46.0% from the field. However, his defense was atrocious, and the Knicks only won 21 games before the season was suspended in March due to COVID-19.
Julius Randle’s name came up in trade rumors during the offseason of 2020. However, the Knicks decided not to trade him, and that move has paid off big time.
Julius Randle made his first All-Star team this season
Julius Randle’s stellar play is the main reason why the Knicks are playing well in 2020-21. He averaged 23.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, and 5.5 assists in the first half of the season while shooting 48.3% from the field, 40.8% from beyond the arc, and 80.5% from the free-throw line.
On an episode of First Take before the NBA All-Star break, Stephen A. Smith was all smiles when he was asked to talk about Randle and the Knicks. The ESPN personality raved about Randle and head coach Tom Thibodeau.
“You got Julius Randle, I’m pleased, I’m very pleased, and he’s worthy of being an All-Star,” Smith said. “I’m just getting a little emotional right now. I’m loving what I’m seeing.”
It’s always fun to watch Stephen A. Smith talk about the Knicks since he’s one of the most passionate New York fans out there. While Knicks supporters are happy that Smith is back on the bandwagon, they likely won’t forget what Stephen A. did on July 2, 2019.
Stephen A. Smith threw a custom Knicks jersey on the floor
After the Knicks failed to get Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in 2019, Max Kellerman trolled Stephen A. Smith by giving his partner a custom Julius Randle jersey. Smith was so disgusted with the Knicks at the time that he threw the jersey on the floor.
It’s incredible to watch this clip now. Smith wasn’t feeling the Randle signing at all when it happened in 2019. However, now that the 26-year-old is playing like an elite NBA player and leading the Knicks to wins, Stephen A. loves Randle.
New York has a tough second-half schedule, so it’s not a guarantee that the team will make the NBA playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season. However, if Julius Randle continues to play like a star and the Knicks’ role players contribute at a high level, Stephen A. Smith’s favorite basketball team may play in meaningful games this season.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.