Julius Randle gives throwback performance in return to Knicks

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Julius Randle hands on knees looking serious white uniform no opponent
Julius Randle hands on knees looking serious white uniform no opponent

It’s late Monday night. Tom Thibodeau’s working through potential matchups and substitution patterns for the Knicks’ game against Indiana. He gets a call from Julius Randle, who had missed the past two games due to health and safety protocols.

Randle, in quarantine away from the team, tells Thibodeau that he’s ‘feeling great’ and ready to return to work.

Less than 24 hours later, Randle backs his words with one of his best games of the season, putting up 30 points and 16 rebounds in a home win.

After the victory, Thibodeau referenced his phone call with Randle from the previous night.

“One of the best late-night calls I ever got,” the coach said.

Randle’s performance against Indiana was a throwback from 2020-21, when he put up historical numbers to lead the Knicks to an out-of-nowhere 41-win season.

Randle wasn’t the only Knick who had a throwback performance on Tuesday.

RJ Barrett had 32 points against the Pacers, getting to the paint/rim seemingly whenever he wanted.

Seeing Randle and Barrett dominate had to be a welcome sight for Thibodeau, Leon Rose and the rest of the organization.

Both players have been inconsistent this season, mirroring the up-and-down (mostly down) nature of the team as a whole.

But Tuesday night – even if it was against a depleted Pacers team – reminded you of how much Randle and Barrett can impact this team.

“With both guys, the most important thing is them attacking the rim,” Thibodeau said. “The game will tell you what to do. So, if you attack the rim, either you’re gonna get the opportunity to score or you can make a rim read and spray it out to open up 3-point game. But that’s the difference. If we settle for shots, it’s gonna cause problems. But if we’re attacking the rim, it makes us different, and then it allows us to set up our defense and do a lot of other things.”

New York improved to 18-20 after the win over Indiana. The Knicks’ next seven games are against teams that are at either at .500, below .500 or a hovering just above it (Dallas, 19-18).

If Randle, Barrett and the rest of the Knicks can find their rhythm and reel off a few wins in the next 15 days, the Knicks could be right back in the bottom of the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

ARCIDIACONO EXPECTED TO SIGN LATER THIS WEEK

The Knicks are expected to sign Ryan Arcidiacono to a 10-day deal later this week. Thursday seems to be the most likely date.

The Knicks originally signed Arcidiacono on Tuesday but the NBA rescinded the deal because New York didn’t have a hardship exception available. They needed a hardship exception in order to sign Arcidiacono to a 10-day deal.

The club has an open roster spot after waiving Wayne Selden and Denzel Valentine. So the Knicks have room for Arcidiacono. Bu they’ll have to wait until Wednesday at the earliest to sign him. That is the date that clubs can sign traditional 10-day contracts.

One source expected the deal to be completed by Thursday.

KEEP AN EYE ON ILLINOIS

If you are a fan of local hoops, you probably already know about Kofi Cockburn. The Queens native and NY Rens alum is one of the top players in college basketball. If you aren’t familiar with him, keep an eye on Illinois. Cockburn has the chance to be the first back-to-back All-American for Illinois since Dee Brown. Brown, currently as assistant coach at UIC, is still a legend in Champagne. Brown’s jersey from his iconic 2005 run is being sold via Campus Ink.