Julius Randle on the rise with a 'different' approach, the presence of Jalen Brunson

Julius Randle on the rise with a ‘different’ approach, the presence of Jalen Brunson

He’s not the Julius Randle of two years ago. It’s more like Julius Randle 2.0.

He may be producing similar numbers to that fantastic season when the lethal yet athletic forward led the Knicks to a surprising fourth place finish in the Eastern Conference, but he does it in a different way.

“The year two years ago, he obviously had a great year and a big part of that, I think, was his shooting,” coach Tom Thibodeau said Tuesday after practice. “It opened up a lot of things for him. But then I think the league kind of caught up and now I think it caught up with what they were doing.

A big part of that change was a different offensive philosophy under Thibodeau based on pace and ball movement, and the arrival of new point guard Jalen Brunson. It meant less isolation for Randle and a new emphasis on fast pace.

Randle rarely lifts the ball and kicks it to the ground. Instead, he gets transition opportunities, shots while moving without the ball, and Brunson’s quick start diverted some of the attention from Randle’s defense. He sees fewer double teams and gets more open shots.

Julius Randle thrived early in the Knicks season because he's playing faster, in addition to the presence of Jalen Brunson (inset).
Julius Randle thrived early in the Knicks season because he’s playing faster, in addition to the presence of Jalen Brunson (inset).
Getty Images; New York Post: New York Post

“His approach was totally different,” Derrick Rose said. “His way of reading the ground is totally different. His passing was amazing, like getting to points without forcing shots and understanding that we’re trying to get a certain number of 3s. He finds the shooters.

He also made some noticeable adjustments, especially arriving at training camp leaner and more prepared to get up and down the floor faster. Early in camp, Randle spoke of his excitement for this new offensive philosophy and teaming up with Brunson, and he backed that talk, producing 17 assists and just four turnovers in the preseason. In three regular season games, he is averaging 21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.3 assists and just 1.7 turnovers.

“I will say this: Julius is a terrific athlete and I know from training against him that what you don’t want to see is Julius flying off the floor, attacking the rim, playing with speed the way he plays,” said Thibodeau. “You prefer to defend him stationary with the ball. I think because of that, [since] he knows the different things he’s been through, he wants to play fast, so I think that’s huge. He can help sell it to the rest of the team when he moves the way he moves. It gets the whole team moving that way.

Late in Monday’s win over the Magic, the biggest change for the Knicks came into focus. A 14-point lead had been reduced to six with 4:28 left in the fourth quarter. In recent years, it was obvious where the ball was going – to isolated Randle. Not in this case. The Knicks ran a big screen-and-roll with Brunson, and it culminated in a Brunson jumper in which he also fired a foul that froze the game. The Knicks have become less predictable.

Julius Randle celebrates after a dunk in the Knicks' win over the Magic.
Julius Randle celebrates after a dunk in the Knicks’ win over the Magic.
New York Post: Noah K. Murray

“For [Jalen] relieving myself of that pressure is huge,” Randle said. He added, in general about his game: “I just try to lose myself in the team. Lean on guys like [Brunson]RJ [Barrett], just playing for my team. The only thing that matters is winning. »

Brunson, an egoless head guard known for making good play, had a major impact on Randle. The two started building their chemistry even before training camp, both spending a lot of time in August and early September at the MSG training facility. This shows. They have played well together, posting a combined plus-30 rating this season.

Brunson recently invited Randle and other teammates to watch a big Eagles-Cowboys game. Brunson is from the Eagles and Randle is a Cowboys fan. A recent press conference featuring the two players ended with the question of who will win the NFC East. They both laughed and talked about each other’s team.

The only thing the two stars disagree on seems to be their favorite football teams.

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