Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
When Julius Randle watched tape of his games early on this season, he knew what was going wrong. He knew he was over dribbling at times, struggling with the double and triple teams being thrown his way. But nothing changed on the court.
"He kept burning his hand on the stove and not learning his lesson," David Fizdale said. "I think, you burn it enough, you're like, 'OK, I've got to make this change.'"
Change started to come for Randle and the Knicks on Monday. Randle had 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists in New York's win over Cleveland in easily his best game as a Knick.
Randle was incredibly efficient, making 12 of his 17 shots. But the most encouraging number of the night for Randle was his one turnover. The 24-year-old entered Monday averaging four turnovers per game.
Afterward, Randle spoke about getting more comfortable with combating all the attention he sees from defenses.
"I still got a ways to go to get better at it. But it is (slowing down)," he said. "I just got to figure out ways to get the defenses off balance and make the games easier for me. Where I can make quick and efficient decisions. Where I don't have to overdribble and face a crowd and face a set defense. So today for me was running the floor, getting in position and getting easy ones. And that's me. Honestly. I don't know why I got away from it honestly, but that's me."
If Randle, who signed a three-year, $63 million deal with New York in the offseason, can continue to make this kind of progress, it could help ease the tension around Fizdale.
There's been speculation about Fizdale's job since last Sunday, when team president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry held an impromptu post-game press conference to express disappointment with the team.
If New York can continue to be competitive night in and night out, it would be difficult for Mills and Perry to justify an in-season coaching change.
And if Randle can continue to make progress towards playing with an efficiency that was missing over the last three weeks, Fizdale's Knicks have a better chance at avoiding the blowout losses they've experienced regularly early this season.
"They've looked much better the last three games, but you still have no idea what you're getting from them on any given night," one Western Conference exec said Monday.
That starts with Randle, who had been inconsistent in his role as point forward in the Knicks' first 13 games.
Randle said a conversation with his agent, Aaron Mintz, helped him hone his approach ahead of the Cleveland game.
"I talk to him every day. He talks me off a ledge every day. It's like, I joke with him, it's like my sane side - him and my wife," Randle said with a laugh. "Because I'm ready to blow up and they kind of talk me back to reality. He gives me a day just to chill out and then he talks me back to reality."
Mintz pointed out that Randle was floating toward the ball too often recently. He corrected that on Monday, got some easy baskets early on and took off from there.
"He's letting it come to him while staying aggressive and making easier basketball plays," Fizdale said afterward.
Those easy plays led to an easy night for New York. If Randle continues to trend in that direction, maybe all the speculation surrounding his head coach will quiet down.