Julius Randle’s attitude adjustment led to All-Star return

Julius Randle has regained his All-Star status this season after a trying step-back campaign one year ago, and he credits an offseason pep talk for his mental and physical turnaround.

Randle was named an Eastern Conference reserve on Thursday, and the power forward said after the Knicks pulled out a pivotal victory over the Heat, that a visit from assistant coach Johnnie Bryant last summer helped him embark on the necessary attitude adjustment following a 2021-22 season in which his play slipped and he was combative with fans, referees and teammates.

“He was talking about the year before and said something like, ‘If you were your teammates and saw you acting the way you did sometimes, with body language, showing frustration, would you want to be your teammate?’” Randle said of Bryant. “And I said, ‘No.’

“So I had to look myself in the mirror and take accountability and get better and learn from it.”

Randle said he didn’t touch a basketball for a couple of months after the Knicks missed the playoffs last season, with his numbers slipping across the board and him at one point giving booing fans a thumbs-down and telling them to shut the f—k up.”

Julius Randle #30 of the New York Knicks pulls down a rebound as Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat defends during the fourth quarter.
Julius Randle’s attitude and game suffered during the 2021-22 season.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Johnnie Bryant coaching for the Jazz in 2019
Johnnie Bryant coaching for the Jazz in 2019
NBAE via Getty Images

“I was out of shape, and [Bryant] was like, ‘Don’t even worry about it,’” Randle said. “Johnnie came and saw me and it was more like big brother, little brother, holding me accountable, talking to me, getting my mind right, more than anything.

“He came to me and had an honest conversation. And it helped me put my ego and my pride to the side. And try to adjust my game and look at myself in the mirror and do what’s best for the team.”

With $104 million point guard Jalen Brunson added to the roster via free agency, less of the on-ball burden was placed on Randle this season, and the duo has thrived in leading the Knicks to a 28-25 record, one game behind the Heat for the sixth playoff position in the East.  

As he accepted the “huge honor” of his second All-Star nod in three seasons, Randle noted “the only thing that really sucks about it is I think Jalen should be right here with me.”

And as Randle’s on-court temperament has improved drastically this season, so have his statistics with career highs of 24.7 points and 10.8 rebounds per game while appearing in all of the Knicks’ 53 games entering Saturday’s home matchup against the Clippers.

“Sometimes I get into my own head because I’m such a perfectionist with stuff,” Randle said. “And when things aren’t going right, I can get a little frustrated. For me, I have to accept failure, accept those things, learn to deal with frustration.

“And I think that is really like the biggest adjustment. Success feels amazing and I don’t want to let go of it. For me, while we were having our ups and downs, I had to learn how to be a leader through success and failure.”

jalen brunson julius randle
The arrival of Jalen Brunson has eased the burden on Randle.
Jason Szenes for the NY Post

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau added after the game that Randle’s play and attitude have been “just terrific” this season and that his return to the All-Star Game is “well-deserved.”

“Thrilled for him and his family. It’s his impact on our team and the winning part of it. Just the way he bounced back this year too says a lot about him,” Thibodeau said. “Just taking a step back from last year I think was really good for him.

“And then I said this, I said it a lot, I think there was a lot of pressure last year because we had to manage without our point guard play. I think getting Jalen this year has been huge for us… So I think understanding that, taking a step back, saying OK, he wants to do well, it comes from a really good place. So learn from it, and bounce back.”

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