PHOENIX — Julius Randle was adamant the season wasn’t over with 20 games remaining and the Knicks five games in the losing column from 10th place — the final play-in spot.
Randle would have a stronger point if the Knicks played better and not before a stretch of six straight road games across four time zones that continues Friday at 50-12 Phoenix. The Suns are without Chris Paul, who has a thumb injury, and Devin Booker, who has COVID-19.
Randle said his glass was “half full.”
“Why shouldn’t we [be in the playoff race]?” Randle said after losing in Philadelphia on Wednesday night. “If we have an opportunity to fight for something, do it, no matter what situation we’re in, if you have an opportunity to fight for something, keep fighting. Even if you’re not, keep competing. At least I personally am.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expanded the play-in format for exactly this reason — to keep teams like the Knicks from tanking in March.
But the Knicks are in that tanking territory when it’s no longer a crime to think about growing young and care less about gains and losses than about development.
This season’s consolation prize could be the starry, 6ft 4 tall Purdue combo guard sophomore Jaden Iveywho is slated to be a top four pick and could fill the club’s huge hole at point guard.
Of course, the Knicks have their eye on Ivey and another stud that could fit in perfectly Jabari Smith, Auburn’s explosive 6-10 power forward. His selection would allow the Knicks to reevaluate whether Randle is a long-term answer. Smith is solidly projected in the top three or four picks.
At 25-37, the Knicks would go into the lottery as the eighth seed with a 23.5 percent chance of finishing in the top four. Point guard will be the priority in the draft, and second Ivey is averaging 17.4 points and 3.1 assists.
Matt Babcock, a former longtime agent turned draft expert for Basketball News, told PostPlus in December that Ivey sounds like a perfect addition to the Knicks.
“He’s so athletic and plays at a great pace,” Babcock said. “I would say he’s in the same vein as a player like Donovan Mitchell. He has the potential to be very dynamic. Right now it looks like Ivey could be the first guard picked in this year’s draft.”
The Knicks are 3-16 in their last 19 games and Randle has been attracting attention after the Philly loss Giving up 68 points in the second half, they lacked the defensive identity they had established last season as the NBA’s leaders in several defensive categories.
“It’s missing a bit,” Randle said of defensive courage. “But everyone has to come in and do their part. It’s tough. Guys are really talented in this league. … They guard the MVP [in Joel Embiid]. Obviously it puts a lot of pressure on your defense. But can’t give up. That should never be the option. We just have to keep fighting until we find a way.”
Randle said the Knicks’ point guard problems look worse than they are because they can’t defend themselves.
“We can’t go into games thinking we can beat others. I think a lot of that comes when you take the ball out of the net,” Randle said. “You’re always going up against a solid defense, that’s really hard. So it’s difficult when the pace is slowed down. I think our pace starts with our defence.”
https://nypost.com/2022/03/03/julius-randle-says-hapless-knicks-not-out-of-playoff-race/ Julius Randle says hapless Knicks out of playoff race