Knicks' Tom Thibodeau praises Julius Randle after 30-point performance: 'He's our engine'

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Julius Randles attempts layup against Jazz
Julius Randles attempts layup against Jazz

In comparison to most of the Knicks’ other games this season, Julius Randle seemed to be having an off night on Wednesday. Through the first quarter, Randle was just 3-of-10 from the field, as the Utah Jazz seemed to have the right game plan in place to slow down the power forward.

Yet, by the time the game’s final buzzer sounded, Randle had put up another monster performance, scoring 30 points to go along with 16 rebounds and 7 assists, as the veteran helped lead the comeback charge in the Knicks’ 112-100 win over the Jazz.

“It’s a lot of fun, honestly,” Randle said of the Knicks’ current strong play, as the team improved to 5-3 in the early going. “It’s unfortunate that we can’t have our fans in here to experience the energy of this team, but we’re all out there just playing hard, playing for each other, and it’s just amazing, the growth of our team and the confidence that we have as a team is great, so we just want to keep it going.

“We’re playing hard, playing together on both ends of the floor. It’s really just making my job easier. I’m just able to play and play off my teammates and just play with great energy.”

Randle, who is averaging 23.1 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 7.4 assists per game – all of which are career-best numbers – has seemingly taken his game to the next level under head coach Tom Thibodeau.

After the game, Thibodeau was quick to praise Randle as being an extremely important part of what the Knicks are doing, even if there are nights where he’s not scoring quite as much.

“He’s our engine,” Thibodeau said. “He plays with a lot of toughness, and there’s a lot of multiple-effort plays that he’s making, but he’s also playing very unselfishly. If you cut and you’re open, he’s going to hit you. He can handle the ball, he’s got very good skills with the ball. I think those guys are very hard to guard, and his shooting has improved. I thought he had some wide-open looks, but he’s shot the three very well this year, so that makes him harder to guard, and he can out-quick you. I think when you put centers on him, he can take them away from the basket and then crack them off the dribble, or if they close short to him, he can shoot the shot. So, he’s doing a lot of things for us really well.

“And then defensively, the rebounding, multiple effort, we’re asking him to play backup center right now also, so he’s doing everything. Playing big minutes, comes in the next day and works, takes care of his body, great with recovery, great in the film sessions, and it’s the type of leadership that’s invaluable to a team.”

Randle, who has averaged close to a double-double for his entire career, put up strong numbers during his first season with the Knicks in 2019-20, averaging 19.5 points with 9.7 boards and 3.1 assists. But his stats have seen a clear uptick across the board, and according to Thibodeau, the 26-year-old is taking the necessary steps towards becoming “the guy” for the Knicks.

“When you look at most players in this league, there’s a progression to becoming that type of player. They don’t just get there overnight, there are steps that they have to take along the way, and I think he’s done that,” Thibodeau said. “I think each year he’s gained experience. I think that’s probably the most valuable teacher. I think you learn through listening, and trial and error is a big part of learning. I think all of the experiences he had with LA and then with New Orleans, and then to take all of that with the pause in the season, it allows you to take a step back and reflect and work on the things that you think can help you and things that you learned over time.

“And probably the biggest thing that he did, he’s in unbelievable shape and it tells you the importance of being in great shape. To be able to play the minutes that he’s playing, I think he prepared himself to do that, and to be honest with you, to win games late, you have to be in great shape.”

Randle and the Knicks will be back on the floor Friday night, as they host the Oklahoma City Thunder at 7:30 p.m..