Knicks get a glimpse of what life might be like without Julius Randle

MIAMI — Earlier this week, the team-run MSG Network Twitter handle posted a video of RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin sitting on the bench together. It was entitled “The Future”.

The caption raised eyebrows considering Toppin plays Julius Randle’s position of power as a forward.

Last August, Randle signed a four-year contract extension worth $118 million. Neither Toppin nor Randle are versatile enough to be considered appropriate to play a different frontcourt position, such as. B. Center or small forward. They are simply power forwards.

The video begged the question: What does this mean for Randle’s future?

The Knicks got an early glimpse of a post-Randle era in Charlotte on Wednesday. Her starting center, Mitchell Robinson, was also out. Randle and Robinson sat outside with sore quadriceps and back respectively.

Both are potential offseason goners – Randle via trade, Robinson via unrestricted free agency.

In Tom Thibodeau’s view, the Knicks played “one of our best games of the year” because they were “very altruistic.”

The innuendo hit hard. Although Randle has had convincing numbers again this season (20.3 points, 10.0 rebounds), scouts believe his excessive dribbling, lack of playmaking and leadership contributed to a 31-42 record and an expected lottery spot to have.

“The problem with the Knicks? Too much Randle,” said an NBA scout last month.

Julius Randle
Julius Randle
USA TODAY sports

The Post reported after Randle’s sacking in Phoenix three weeks ago that the team management was worried about his mental health. Not much has changed to ease worries. Randle was fined $40,000 for an incident in the dying seconds of Sunday’s Utah defeat for shoving Rudy Gobert and using “hostile language” towards officers.

Randle hasn’t played since, giving Toppin – the athletic, dipping and fast-breaking specialist – a chance to start as a power forward.

“We were all moving the ball and getting easy shots and putting them down,” Barrett said. “It was a great team effort and it was a lot of fun to play.”

Analysis shows that Barrett and Randle have not played well as a tandem this season, with each having better metrics when the other is off the court. Barrett played one of his most efficient games in a couple of weeks with Randle absent. He scored 30 points in 9-for-17 shooting and hit seven of his eight free throws.

But Toppin’s energy at the start set the tone of the night with an opening-minute fast-break dunk, 10 points in the first quarter and a double-double evening with 18 points, 11 rebounds and six assists.

“He had a phenomenal game today, also had great games on the track,” Barrett said. “I’m glad he’s getting his chance out there and taking it. He’s a living wire and so athletic and can shoot the ball and get the rebound, push and play, make decisions. I’m glad he’s been feeling more comfortable in his own skin lately.”

Obi Toppin
Obi Toppin ended the Knicks’ win over the Hornets with 18 points.

To date, Toppin hasn’t gained enough traction — his 3-point shooting is still at 24.3 percent, which is bottom of the league. His minutes are kept at a modest 15.3.

“Our season isn’t over yet,” said Toppin. “We still have a chance to get into the play-in. That’s what we’re going for. We know we still have a chance, so we will fight like dogs every day.”

With the Knicks 5 1/2 games from No. 10, it’s wishful thinking, but Toppin still believes there’s motivation even after he’s eliminated.

“Playing with the guys and knowing that we’re going to come back next year and still be with those guys,” Topping said. “And finding a rhythm to win basketball.”

If Toppin continues to resemble a starting power forward — he played 40 minutes at Charlotte — Knicks president Leon Rose will be more encouraged to trade Randle this summer. It’s quite a consideration.

An NBA official believes the Knicks should move Randle to open up space for Toppin in exchange for a stretch center in the form of Indiana’s Myles Turner, who is on the trading block.

Because of his behavior and mood swings, Randle doesn’t act like someone who wants to be here. The Garden fans turned on him even before his thumbs-down gesture. They’ve even chanted Barrett’s name on nights when Randle has the better game.

RJ Barrett bows down after drawing a foul against the Hornets.
RJ Barrett bows down after drawing a foul against the Hornets.

Motivated to promote Barrett as the face of the franchise, Knicks Brass makes sure he speaks in the interview room after every game, even if he’s not asked to.

Though Robinson has posted exceptional offensive rebound nights, there are still games where he looks less than enthusiastic. He has yet to say publicly that he wants to remain a kink.

The push after the All-Star weekend to evaluate rookie center Jericho Sims has gone well enough. But Sims looked pumped on his first start in Charlotte, scoring six points around the basket in the first quarter. Teammates were looking for the 58th pick in the draft.

Mitchell Robinson
Mitchell Robinson
Jason scenes

However, Boy Scouts believe Sims is a poor man’s Robinson and see a solid backup center – not a starter. That’s fine, but only if injury-stricken Nerlens Noel can make a comeback next season – a big if. A Noel Sims Taj Gibson trio is not ideal, but may have to suffice. One bright spot is that veteran Gibson has improved his 3-point shooting this season, bagging two at Charlotte and taking his percentage to 44 percent (12 to 27).

Young combo guards Miles McBride and Immanuel Quickly looked promising and the Knicks have won six of their last 10 games.

“We’ve felt good in every game since the All-Star break,” Barrett said. “We played great basketball. Even with some of those losses, we played great basketball.”

With the addition of a true launch point guard in the off-season, the future doesn’t necessarily have to be bleak. Knicks get a glimpse of what life might be like without Julius Randle


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