The numbers are down and so is Julius Randle’s mojo for the moment.
Following a second loss to the rebuilding Magic on Wednesday night, Randle candidly admitted he’s underperforming and defined the team’s flow as “weird out there.”
Randle is not the only reason the Knicks starting lineup has struggled, but he’s the head of the snake and that head is ailing.
In the latest Orlando debacle, Randle scored just 13 points. When he returned to action with four minutes left, he didn’t muster a shot attempt. Something’s not right for the Second Team All-NBA player from last season.
“It hasn’t been great,” Randle said of his play this season. “Like I said, a lot of this stuff is rhythm, trying to find each other out. I think it’s been exactly how the season went. There’s been good days and there’s been not great days. That’s pretty much who we are right now. We’re not a consistent team, a consistent basketball team yet, but we’ll get there.”
Randle is averaging 19.8 points on 41.2 percent shooting overall — 35.1 percent from 3. All three of those figures are significantly down from last season’s marks of 24.1 points, 45.6 percent from the field and 41.1 percent beyond the arc.
In turn, the Knicks have gone 3-6 since their 5-1 start. The schedule hasn’t been rough.
Wednesday’s second home loss to Orlando in three weeks remains mystifying. The Knicks got outplayed down the stretch.
A point forward last season, Randle has to share with a ball-dominant point guard in Kemba Walker, who is also struggling with a team-worst minus-107.
In recent games, Randle has looked more lethargic than at any time during last season’s rollicking ride. Meanwhile, his backup Obi Toppin is coming on. Toppin was a plus-11 vs. Orlando, Randle a minus-21.
A lefty freight train who looked unstoppable last season, Randle took 11 shots – 10 from 3-point range. He was 4 of 10 from 3 and missed his lone shot inside the arc.
“That’s the shots that I felt like were there,” Randle said. “I’m not trying to force it or whatever it is. That’s the shots I felt like were there tonight.”
It is unclear if this was a shooting boycott in response to critiques that he’s doing too much isolation into traffic or just a lack of confidence.
Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau appeared to support Randle, saying the Magic were playing a lot of zone and negating Randle’s ability to take it to the bucket.
“The game tells you what to shoot, and they played a lot of zone,” Thibodeau said. “I’m gonna look at the film again. I thought a lot of them were wide-open 3s. I trust him. If he’s open, I want him to shoot. So, he’s not gonna be perfect.”
Randle, who signed a long-term contract extension in August, knows things need to get right. There would be nothing more humiliating than losing to the 1-14 Rockets on Saturday to wrap up their three-game homestand. The Knicks, who are tied for seventh place with the 76ers, face the resurgent Bulls in Chicago the following night.
As much as Randle has talked in recent days about a lack of chemistry compared to last season, he doesn’t think there’s any lack of camaraderie — a hallmark of the 41-31 squad that broke a seven-season playoff drought.
“It’s tough,” Randle said. “But we’ve got a great group of guys, everybody is together. Everybody likes each other. We come in, we work hard, We’ve just got to continue to figure it out. Keep our hearts in the right places. It’s a long season. Fifteen games, I know it feels like the end of the world here in New York, but it’s 15 games in.
“I think it starts with looking at yourself. Everybody taking a look in the mirror, see if you’re giving everything you have to the team, to the game.”
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