All-Star forward Julius Randle said he's "grateful" for the chance the New York Knicks gave him when he signed as a free agent in 2019, and he's hopeful to remain with the organization for the long haul.
"I'm damn proud to be a Knick," Randle wrote in a piece for The Players' Tribune on Thursday. He later expanded on his comments.
"When I came here almost two years ago that was the plan, I wanted to be here long term," he told reporters. "I want to be a Knick. My thoughts haven't changed."
Randle explained in his essay he felt his first year with the Knicks set the wrong tone and further established his reputation as a "selfish" player who wasn't a leader or a winner. He went to work in the offseason with the goal of changing how he was viewed:
"That meant rounding out my game. I worked on expanding the range of my jumper, to stretch the floor from three like you're seeing from a lot of elite bigs. I worked on my playmaking and versatility, so that I could play more minutes at more spots on the court—power forward, point forward, center, whatever it takes. I worked on my conditioning, to make sure I was ready for a full season... plus a playoff run. Maybe it sounds corny, but I worked on becoming the player I've always felt like I could be. My best self."
The 26-year-old Dallas native has also taken on a larger leadership role in the Knicks' locker room, preaching to younger players the importance of watching film to prepare for upcoming opponents.
His impact has been noticeable. He's on pace for a career-best season, averaging 23.1 points, 10.9 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 48 percent from the field, including 41.2 percent on threes, en route to earning his first All-Star selection.
The Knicks are also trending upward. They sit fifth in the Eastern Conference with an 18-18 record heading into Thursday night's game against the Detroit Pistons, their last contest before the All-Star break. New York last posted a winning record during the 2012-13 season.
Randle wrote in The Players' Tribune he's excited about trying to get the New York fanbase fired up:
"I've been painting the picture of it to these guys all year. Just the other day I was talking about it with Obi [Toppin] and them. I was like, y'all don't even realize... if we can put some wins together here?? Get this thing going for the playoffs?? Get New York popping?? Maybe even there's crowds by then, and we get the Garden popping?? Y'all don't even know. There's not another fanbase in the league that can match what these Knicks fans will give us—if we're taking care of our business."
Eventually the focus will shift to a potential long-term extension. But he's under contract through next season as part of a three-year, $62.1 million deal, so the front office's focus in the short term is probably trying to upgrade the roster before the March 25 trade deadline.
For a team that's often been a seller leading up to the deadline in recent years, even the idea of being a buyer with hope of solidifying a playoff roster is a step forward, and Randle is leading the way.