Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Knicks are asking Julius Randle to take on some new responsibilities.
In addition to scoring, New York wants Randle to defend, make his teammates better and help lead a young group.
"It's a lot that we're asking of him," David Fizdale said last week. "(Previously in his) career all he's been asked to do - for the most part - is score. And so now he's juggling (the additional responsibilities) and trying to figure it out. And I think step-by-step, he'll get there."
It's fair to say that Randle is still getting adjusted. He enters Wednesday's game against Detroit shooting 42 percent from the floor (1-for-18 from beyond the arc). He averaging 4.6 assists and 4.1 turnovers a night to go along with 13.4 points and 10.4 rebounds. He's passing more at this point than he was at the beginning of the season. His shot isn't falling, which has led to natural questions about his shot selection.
Whether you think Randle should be producing more at this point - or if you think the 24-year-old should be allotted more time to figure out his new role - is a matter of perspective.
Both the coaching staff and Randle seem to be taking a patient approach.
"He hasn't seen (defenses) running two and three people at him before. It's just a matter of him learning how to play against those defenses and understanding how to attack them," Fizdale said on Sunday before the Knicks' loss to the Kings.
Fizdale started Bobby Portis at center in place of Mitchell Robinson against Sacramento in an effort to get Randle more space to operate. Robinson didn't have an issue with the new role, but it certainly didn't produce the desired effect.
The Knicks fell behind by double digits in the first quarter in a 21-point loss to the Kings.
Randle had an uneven individual performance. He missed nine of 13 shots, scored eight points, grabbed seven rebounds and had one turnover.
When asked after the game whether the lineup change gave him more space to operate, Randle said, "(There have) been defenses loading up on me the whole year and that's really what it's been. I've got to look at the film, honestly. I can't give you a clear answer right now. I've got to look at the film and see if I had more opportunities to attack or whatever it was or get cleaner looks. I don't know. But I've got to figure it out."
There are plenty of reasons that the Knicks have lost six of seven games to start the season.
Randle's inconsistent play is one of them, but it's far from the only one. Among them: the Knicks haven't gotten enough from the point guard position, have shuffled out five different starting lineups and the offense has devolved into individual play at times.
There's also the complexion of the roster.
"They have too many players who play the same role - Portis, Randle, even Morris," one scout said Sunday night, echoing a refrain made by other evaluators and media members.
"They're asking Fizdale to bake a cake, but they forgot to give him the eggs," another scout said last week in reference to the Knicks' roster.
Can Fizdale find other ways to unlock Randle?
Does Randle, the biggest free agent the Knicks signed this summer, simply need to perform better?
Has Fizdale's lineup tinkering had a negative impact on the team's bottom line?
Is it fair to expect Fizdale to have a set lineup given all of the new faces in the Knicks' rotation?
These are among the questions surrounding the Knicks after Sunday's listless performance. Again, your answers to those questions are largely a matter of perspective.
One that's seemingly under Fizdale's control is whether the Knicks move the ball on offense or not.
After praising his club for their ball movement in recent games, Fizdale said the Knicks relied on individual play too often on Sunday.
"We resorted back to that, 'I'm going to save us.' We're just not good enough for that," Fizdale said.
Randle agreed with that assessment.
"Yeah that's fair to say…. I just feel like we weren't five men out there as a unit. It was just too much individual (play). We just weren't trusting each other enough," Randle said. "Like I said, that's to be expected with this many new players. But we've got to start figuring it out."
That they do. It's way too early in the season to be thinking about coaching or personnel changes. But a 1-6 start is unsightly.
As noted Sunday, after spending $70 million in free agency over the summer, the organization came into the season with expectations that were significantly higher than last season.
No one in with decision-making power will be happy if New York is playing for lottery ping-pong balls rather than competing for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.
Which, given all of the losing the Knicks have done in recent seasons, is understandable. It's time for this group to show some progress.