Julius Randle plays with passion. But where are the dots?

For much of the Knicks’ beating against the Dallas Mavericks, Julius Randle was a problem, in basketball parlance. He worked his way t...

For much of the Knicks’ beating against the Dallas Mavericks, Julius Randle was a problem, in basketball parlance.

He worked his way to the basket on Wednesday, like when he absorbed contact from three defenders to complete a first-half layup. He pushed the ball on the ground. He skillfully found open shooters (eight assists). He was engaged defensively. He grabbed 12 rebounds. The Knicks finished the game trailing Dallas by 29 points when Randle was down.

There was a hole: Randle shot a dismal 6-for-17. That didn’t matter much in the 108-85 win over Dallas, but it was part of a season-long trend of the player’s poor offense highest paid Knicks.

For most of the season, Randle, 27, has been a problem for the Knicks, not a problem for other teams. After signing a long-term extension with the Knicks this summer, he’s having one of the worst seasons of his career. It’s a big reason the Knicks are just .500 down when they needed to build on last year’s surprising run to the playoffs. And that could mean long-term problems for the Knicks, who have spent a significant portion of their salary cap on Randle for at least three more seasons.

Randle is averaging 19 points per game, his lowest since the 2017-18 season. His field goal percentage – 41.4% – is a career low. His assists (4.9 per game) are down from last season (6.0 per game) and he is averaging a career-high in turnovers (3.5 per game). Several key players on the Knicks, including Michael Robinson and Alec Burk, performed better without Randle in the game. Last month, Randle said he had “be better‘, and that he ‘took responsibility for myself’.

His go-to move, the back jumper, has been unreliable – making it easier for defenders to cram him in or force him into more out-of-control drives.

Randle’s struggles came to a head last week when he gave Knicks fans a thumbs up gesture during a game against the Boston Celtics. Afterwards, he told reporters, using profanity, that this meant the crowd was quiet. He apologized in an Instagram post. The NBA fined him $25,000 for “flagrant use of profane language in media interviews.” Asked about the fine and gesture after Tuesday’s practice, Randle was curt, saying he had “addressed it before”. It came a day after his 2-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs.

When asked if the team should do more to get him involved, Randle was equally curt: “I’m glad we got a win yesterday.”

Randle’s disappointing streak began in last season’s first-round playoff series against the Atlanta Hawks, a team he dominated during the regular season but couldn’t resolve in playoffs. Still, his struggles this season have been baffling. There is no indication that his conditioning is off or that injuries are playing a part.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said Wednesday that Randle has held steady, despite his declining numbers.

“Julius is a professional. He navigated the ups and downs of this league for a long time,” Thibodeau said. “He knows where he is in this league and he knows what he has to do and there is no change in his approach to training.”

Often the cause of a player’s difficulties can be easily identified. Perhaps a star player’s teammates aren’t hitting their jumpers or taking enough, causing the player to face more double teams and take harder hits. The Knicks dealt with this issue last year, with Randle as their star player, despite playing well and making the All-Star team. But this season he has more filming around him, with new additions like Evan Fournier, and is mostly able to pull off the same looks as before. They just don’t fall off.

Randle is still a hard-hitting player even when he’s not scoring, Thibodeau said after practice Tuesday, because of the defensive attention he draws.

“When he gets the ball out against the overload,” Thibodeau said, referring to the double teams Randle faces, “it’ll be the second or third pass that gets us the shot.”

In fact, some of Randle’s worst numbers come from when a defender is away from him. He only shoots 26.6% on shots when a defender is at least six feet away from him, according to NBA tracking numbers. That number was 44.4% last year about the same number of shots per game. When a defender is four to six feet away from him – still considered open – Randle shoots 41.1% – compared to 45.1% last year. Open shots account for more than half of Randle’s field goal attempts.

It gives something to both the glass half full and the glass half empty of Knicks fans. If you’re an optimist, you assume that missing so many open shots is a fluke for Randle, that there’s no way an NBA All-Star is still shooting less than 27% when he’s open, that it’s only a matter of when, not if, he emerges from the firing slump. A scientist might think of last season as a control group: if Randle gets the same shots as last year with better shooters around him, his stats will surely improve. After all, he’s still bouncing high (10.2 per game) and the rest of his numbers are more or less where they need to be.

And as Thibodeau said, “You’re going to get a lot of effort from Julius every day.”

If you’re pessimistic, Randle’s shooting struggles represent a regression to the mean — that last year was the fluke. Randle is a career 33.6 percent 3-point shooter who kind of morphed into a 41.1 percent shooter last year. For the glass-half-empty folks, this season’s poor showing matches Randle’s struggles in his first year as the Knick. This means that in two of his three years in New York, Randle hasn’t played well, a worrying sign given that the team has invested in him for the long term.

There is no systemic solution for Thibodeau. There’s no game plan that will keep Randle’s shots from stopping if he’s open. If Randle isn’t a shooting threat, Thibodeau could work through him more at the position. But Randle has a habit of dribbling in double teams closer to the basket and forcing bad passes. It happened Wednesday night against Dallas, when he had five turnovers. When Randle doesn’t hit jumps, it can make it harder for the Knicks to score because frontcourt teammate Robinson only plays to the edge – which is partly an accusation of Robinson’s inability to extend his reach. range.

The silver lining is how the Knicks are heading into the second half of the season. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games. At 21-21, they have the same record as last year at this stage, before snatching a dominant second half. But it’s hard to see how the Knicks maintain a rise in the standings without their best player producing at a high level. In the meantime, Thibodeau predicts the best approach for Randle is to pretend nothing has happened.

“Julius is passionate about the city, our fans, the game, winning. And that’s all that matters,” Thibodeau said, adding, “Keep moving forward.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Julius Randle plays with passion. But where are the dots?
Julius Randle plays with passion. But where are the dots?
Newsrust - US Top News
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