If there's a New York athlete who knows about navigating ups and downs with fans in the Big Apple, it's Julius Randle.
During his Most Improved Player campaign in 2020-21, he was serenaded with MVP chants from New York Knicks fans.
The following year, during his struggles, he heard unfamiliar boos, which prompted him to give the fans a thumbs-down during a game.
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Randle returned to All-Star form this season, and the Knicks were on the way to clinching a playoff berth before hitting a wall.
After a nine-game winning streak, they are 3-6 in their last nine.
Randle dropped 57 points in one of the losses and earned a technical in the matchup. On Thursday night, he got in the face of not only a referee but teammate Immanuel Quickley.
It wasn't his first outburst with things going south, either. But if the Knicks want to make a surprise run in the playoffs, Randle needs to cool it, says former Knicks head coach Jeff Van Gundy.
“Emotion and passion lead to better play, but a lack of emotional control and poise lead to lesser play,” Van Gundy told The Post. “To play well in the playoffs, to play well in hard-fought, highly-contested, close games, ultimately you have to have your best players have a level of poise that leads them to be able to play through rough patches of games or a tough loss in a playoff series and to bounce back. Poise is so very critical to be able to handle late-game pressurized situations.
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“I think a couple of years back in the playoffs, [Randle] had some issues with that. I think he’s had to close games this year, had some challenges with that.”
Current head coach Tom Thibodeau is known for his hard-nosed coaching style, but Van Gundy says there's not much Thibodeau can do in this situation. It's up to Randle.
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“As far as what a coach can do, if this problem is to be corrected, it’s gonna be because Julius Randle wants to get it corrected,” Van Gundy said. “It can be punished by a coach or an organization. But it can only be corrected by the player.”
The Knicks are 42-33 and sit in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. If the season ended today, they would face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.