Knicks’ Julius Randle finds groove in bounce-back season

Julius Randle heard it. How couldn’t he? Late in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ win over Phoenix on Monday, with Randle at the free throw line completing a 28-point night, an M-V-P chant cascaded down from the rafters. For any player, it’s flattering. For Randle, who a year ago was hearing something a lot different, it meant more.

Said Randle, “It’s good to be on the good side of The Garden.”

Indeed. Randle’s 3½ years in New York have been wild, with the peaks and valleys of a Coney Island roller coaster. He was good in the coronavirus-halted 2019–20 season, his first in New York. He was great the following year, earning an All-Star spot (his first), an All-NBA nod (ditto) while adding the NBA’s Most Improved Player award to his trophy shelf. His numbers last season (20.1 points, 9.9 rebounds) were solid, but his shooting percentages dropped, the Knicks struggled and, during one particularly rough stretch last January, Randle delivered a thumbs-down to fans cheering a Knicks comeback, later explaining it was meant to tell Knicks fans to “shut the f— up.”

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