Knicks' Tom Thibodeau explains why he was blown away by his first impression of Julius Randle

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Julius Randle and Thom Thibodeau
Julius Randle and Thom Thibodeau

If Knicks fans had to point to the two biggest reasons why this 2020-21 team has turned things around and become a playoff team so quickly, the leadership of Tom Thibodeau and All-Star play of Julius Randle would probably be the answer.

And as it turns out, Thibodeau knew right after he was hired that Randle had what it took to take his game to the next level and lead the Knicks to where they needed to be.

In an interview with The Breakfast Club on Power 105.1 FM, Thibodeau explained that he met with Randle shortly after being hired, and he was blown away by what he saw from the power forward.

“I asked Julius to come in just to spend some time with him. It was during the pandemic, and I think the next day he jumped on a flight and he came up here,” Thibodeau explained. “We had a chance to spend like three or four days together, and I worked him out myself. And when he got here, I was really impressed with the type of shape that he was in, because it was in the middle of the pandemic and it was very difficult to go anywhere and work out or work on your game.

“You always have preconceived notions of what a player’s like having coached against, and once I got to know him and I saw the conditioning he had put in, and I also noticed that his shot was different and he was really shooting the ball well, so I could tell that he had put a lot of time into it.”

Thibodeau, who was also with the Knicks of the late 1990s and early 2000s as an assistant, compared what he saw (and continues to see) from Randle to that of an all-time Knicks legend.

“If you can recall, the Knicks weren’t part of the bubble last year, so he maximized that time to work on his game, and after those four days I knew that he could be the leader that we needed,” Thibodeau said. “And I can recall back to the 90s, I remember when I first got hired Patrick Ewing was our best player, and he was the first guy in, he was in unbelievable shape, great work capacity, and when you combine that with talent, that’s the best leadership you can have.

“So, when I saw the way that Julius was approaching it and how committed he was to getting this turned around, I thought we would have a good chance.”

To listen to Thibodeau’s full interview, click here.