NEW YORK – Despite helping his team engineer a remarkable 25-point comeback against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night, star forward Julius Randle was not happy.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Randle made a layup and, as he ran back to the other end of the court, gave the crowded crowd a thumbs down as they cheered his name.
When asked after the game what message he was trying to convey to fans, Randle made no bones about it.
“Shut the fuck up,” he said.
In response to a follow-up question on whether this was due to the boos the Knicks heard during the first two quarters of Thursday’s victory, when the Celtics completely outplayed them, Randle said: “You saw that. You saw what was going on. . Over there “.
Randle’s thumbs-down gesture was reminiscent of what then-New York Mets shortstop Javier Baez did this summer. After hitting a home run, Baez gave the crowd at Citi Field a pair of thumbs down, later saying it was in response to the treatment fans gave him and his teammates all season.
For Randle, the gesture was a continuation of comments he made the day before at the team’s practice facility when asked about the negativity that has surrounded his game this season.
“I really don’t give a damn what anyone has to say, to be honest,” Randle said. “I’m playing. Nobody knows the game better than I do, compared to what everyone has to say.
“So I really don’t give a shit. I just go out and play.”
Last season was a delight for both Randle and the Knicks. He became an All-Star and All-NBA player for the first time and won the NBA Most Improved Player award en route to leading the Knicks to 41 wins and fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. He set personal records in various categories, including scoring, rebounding, assists, 3-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage, helping New York break a seven-year playoff drought. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau also won the league’s Coach of the Year award for the second time.
This year, however, has been very different. Randle’s production is down, especially his three-point shot, which is down more than 8 percent from last season. And while the Knicks had pretty much the same record at this point last season, the circumstances surrounding it are vastly different.
Last season, the Knicks entered the season without expectations and surpassed them all. This year, they entered the season with expectations based on fourth place last year in the East, but are in 10th place in the conference, last in the tournament, after Thursday’s dramatic victory.
After Celtics star Jayson Tatum hit a game-tying jump shot over the Knicks’ RJ Barrett with 1.5 seconds left, Barrett clinched a 3-pointer from the buzzer.
Randle, who gave several clipped responses before explaining his actions during the game, was asked if the victory was special.
“I don’t know,” Randle said. “It was special for our team. But we kept fighting. Obviously we don’t want to get into a hole, but we as a team, we keep fighting, we stay and we find a way to win the game.”
Randle has always played with his heart on his sleeve, and that passion has emerged at other times this season, including against rival Brooklyn Nets earlier this season, when he and Thibodeau were frustrated by the way he was being refereed at. a loss for the Knicks. .
“He puts emotion in everything he does,” said Evan Fournier, who had 41 points against his former team and admitted he didn’t see the gestures Randle made to the crowd.
“He was probably not happy with [the booing]. Honestly, it’s not a big deal. If I was him, playing hard as hell and [playing] well … when you give everything you have into something and you give so much into something and it doesn’t work or they call you, it’s frustrating.
“But it’s the business we’re in. And Julius is the face of the franchise. He’s the star player, so of course he’s going to get more criticism. And I think he gets it.”