Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Kawhi Leonard signing with the Clippers makes it official: the Knicks have missed out on all of their top targets in free agency. But the biggest free agent they landed, Julius Randle, believes that fans will grow to appreciate the 2019-2020 team.
"We've got dogs. We've got dudes who don't back down, who have killer mentalities. And that's what we need," Randle said on Friday night. "Getting back to the old school. Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, all of those guys. Toughness. A fight breaking every night. So, we're excited about that. That's our identity of our team, not backing down from nobody."
Randle offered his thoughts on several topics in a chat with reporters in Las Vegas:
On why he chose the Knicks in free agency: "I had a lot of options. I just felt like this opportunity was the greatest opportunity. I felt like there's no fan base and organization is starving and hungry to win more than the Knicks in the NBA. And I don't think there's a better place in the NBA to win than with the Knicks and New York. So, for me, it was a no-brainer. And like I said, every day I wake up, I pinch myself because I'm excited."
On the Knicks' pitch to him in free agency: "Just how they wanted to use me. Me being the leader on this team, the lead guy, and the young core that we already have. Me and (coach David Fizdale), we really thought alike. He said one of the things when he took this job was there's no better place to win, in New York. He said this is the best place in the NBA to win and I felt the same way. And I felt the same thing. When he asked me what I wanted out of this I said the exact same thing. So, we thought alike. And the opportunity for myself as a player too, I'm excited about it. We've got a lot of good guys on this team. I can go down the list of all the guys I'm excited to play with, the young guys. I've been in this situation, a couple years ago that is very similar to what they're in, just trying to establish themselves in the league. But I like what I see out there and those guys are playing great, they're playing together and I'm excited."
On the idea that some Knicks fans are disappointed about not landing Kevin Durant, Leonard or Kyrie Irving: "I understand it. I'm not going to take it any way. That fan base is starving to be competitive every night. For guys who are going to compete every night to win. So, for me, it's that. That's what it is. I'm going to work my butt off to get to that point."
Randle signed a three-year, $63 million deal with the Knicks. The contract has a team option in the third year. He's the biggest free agent signee for New York in a 2019 class that includes Reggie Bullock, Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton, Bobby Portis and Taj Gibson. All players outside of Randle are on two-year contracts with a team option in the second season.
So the club did not commit long-term money to any free agent this summer, maintaining future cap flexibility. (But based on their new players' recent track record, it's hard to see this Knicks team defending well.)
The best-case scenario for the Knicks is this: their young players (RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Allonzo Trier) continue to grow and develop, making the club more attractive to future stars. And maybe some of the players they sign, like Randle, play well enough to be added to that young core moving forward.
The perfect timeline for the Knicks? Putting together a title contender once the star-studded teams in Los Angeles and Brooklyn break up. And yes, Russell Westbrook may become available via trade in the wake of Oklahoma City's Paul George trade. It's unclear if the Knicks would be interested, but trading for Westbrook would be a questionable move without a second (or third) bona fide star coming with him.
We also know that Anthony Davis plans to test free agency next summer. If things don't go well in Los Angeles, it's logical to think the Knicks could be on his radar. Davis was open to re-signing with the Knicks if they'd traded for him this offseason, per sources.