Julius Randle on meaning of thumbs down to Knicks fans: 'Shut the f--k up'

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  • Julius Randle
    Julius Randle
    American basketball player
  • Evan Fournier
    Evan Fournier
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  • RJ Barrett
    RJ Barrett
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Julius Randle thumbs down white uniform
Julius Randle thumbs down white uniform

There’s something about Knicks-Celtics at the Garden this year. The first Celtics visit to MSG – on opening night - produced a double-overtime thriller.

Round 2 on Thursday was just as entertaining.

The Knicks came back from 25 down to win on an RJ Barrett buzzer-beating three off the glass. Evan Fournier was the hero for New York, scoring 41 points and hitting 10 of his 14 3-point attempts.

Jayson Tatum was incredible (36 points, nine assists) for Boston. He hit the game-tying shot with 1.5 seconds to play. But Barrett banked in a 28-footer at the buzzer to win it for the Knicks.

It was a historic shot. New York became the first team in NBA history to come back from a 25-point deficit and win on a buzzer-beater when one of its players hits 10 or more 3s (via StatsBySTATS).

Making Fournier’s night even more remarkable? He went scoreless the previous game and had been underwhelming for many of the season’s first 36 games.

And Barrett was 3-for-14 when he hit the buzzer-beater. He’d been blocked by Boston’s Robert Williams several times over the course of the game. But he attacked Williams on one of New York’s final possessions, drew a foul, and made one of two free throws to give New York a 3-point lead with 18 seconds left.

His shot at the buzzer gave the inconsistent Knicks their biggest win of the season.

But the victory almost became secondary to a public display of frustration from Knicks star Julius Randle.

Randle and the Knicks endured loud boos from the home crowd early in the game when they fell behind by 25. It’s hard to blame the crowd for its reaction.

The Knicks looked lifeless for much of the first half and the Garden crowd is never shy about expressing disappointment.

Randle, of course, has taken on the brunt of criticism for the Knicks this season. Fans/media questioning his effort and his shot selection have been a recurring theme this season.

Jan 4, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) watches during a free throw attempt against the Indiana Pacers in the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden.
Jan 4, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) watches during a free throw attempt against the Indiana Pacers in the fourth quarter at Madison Square Garden.

So when he and the Knicks started to hit shots in the second half and engineer a comeback, Randle wasn’t interested in hearing the cheers from the home crowd.

Fans cheered after Randle hit a contested shot off glass with 5:30 to go. The shot put the Knicks up four. After hitting the shot, Randle jogged back to the other end of the court with his thumb down.

When asked after the game what he meant by the thumbs-down gesture, Randle said, "Shut the f--k up."

There are a few things worth noting here: You are never going to win a public war with a fan base, particularly when your team is struggling.

That’s the way it is in New York. You aren’t going to change fans’ minds by telling them that they shouldn’t boo. But Randle, clearly frustrated, went there. And in doing so, he used a four-word phrase and expressed an attitude that some New Yorkers can appreciate.

He also isn’t the first Knick to take on the fan base. Patrick Ewing did it. Carmelo Anthony never publicly called out the Knicks fans. But there were games late in his Knicks tenure when you could tell he was frustrated by the home crowd. In one of those games, he was booed early on and ended up hitting a big shot late in the fourth quarter. Fans started cheering. Anthony could be seen saying to the crowd something like, "I don’t want it."

Randle essentially took the same approach on Thursday.

You may hate Randle for what he did and said. You may respect him for it. Maybe you fall somewhere in the middle.

But it showed you that Randle, even with the big contract and fame, is human. His wife and young son were in the crowd. It’s not hard to understand how/why he’d react the way he did.

Jan 4, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) and guard RJ Barrett (9) walk off the court together after defeating the Indiana Pacers 104-94 at Madison Square Garden.
Jan 4, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) and guard RJ Barrett (9) walk off the court together after defeating the Indiana Pacers 104-94 at Madison Square Garden.

To Fournier, it wasn’t a big deal.

"Jules, getting to know him, he’s an emotional guy. Because he puts so much into what he does," Fournier said. "He probably wasn’t happy about that. Honestly, no big deal in my opinion. The dude played hard as hell, he fought extremely hard and he played well. So when you give everything you have for something and you put so much into something and it doesn’t work out or you’re being called out, sometimes it’s frustrating.

"But it’s the business that we’re in. And Julius is the image of the franchise. He’s the star player. Of course, he’s going to get more criticism. But that comes with it. And I think he understands it. If I remember well, his first year here he was getting booed consistently and then he bounced back and had an incredible season last year, so that shows a lot of mental toughness. So I’m not worried about Julius at all."

FOURNIER INSIGHTFUL ON OFFENSE

I thought Fournier was insightful when describing the Knicks’ offense:

"We’re kind of looking for a way to get going and to cruise and have a way to play. I feel like the way we play right now – because we don’t have that thing where we know how we’re going to play every night – then it’s like the guy that gets going early, he’s going to get a lot of attention. Which is good, but sometimes it means that you get less rhythm for other players.

"Last game, I shot 0-for-3 to start the game and RJ was doing great, so he got everything. Today was a little different, but I feel like that’s why we’re so inconsistent right now. I think if we can find a way to all touch it, all be aggressive and all find a way to mix it in and all find a way to express ourselves then we’re going to be a lot better. And that’s what we did early on in the season."

New York ranks 19th in both offensive and defensive efficiency at the moment. Though, as Stan Van Gundy noted on the TNT broadcast, the Knicks had a top-ten defense over the past two weeks entering play Thursday.

One other note: In addition to his strong showing in the second half on Thursday, Randle finished the game with zero turnovers (per @GameChangerSean). It was his first game without a turnover since April 2021.