LeBron James might be against the NBA holding its annual All-Star Game this year in Atlanta and Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox might think it’s “stupid,” but don’t tell that to Knicks talisman Julius Randle.
The headlining forward of the revamping Knicks earned his first All-Star Game selection on Tuesday night, shortly before his team’s loss to the Golden State Warriors at Madison Square Garden; which was also the first time in nearly a year that fans were allowed in the famous venue.
“It was really special. It was definitely a crazy surreal moment,” Randle said. “Everything you could dream of, it just seemed like it all came to fruition. It was amazing, honestly, and everything that I signed up for. And goals that I wrote down when I decided to come here and play for the Knicks. It’s all happening.”
Randle continues his ascension as one of the premier players in the game which was unexpected by many considering the 26-year-old is with his third team in seven NBA seasons having been written off by the Los Angeles Lakers as the seventh-overall pick in the 2014 draft before the New Orleans Pelicans just let him walk in free agency two years ago.
After revamping his physical conditioning and working on his mental fortitude, Randle is a leading man in New York, averaging career-bests with 23.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game — all while flourishing under first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau.
“All the things that he’s done for the team: Being unselfish, being a great worker, the way he practices, I think [his All-Star selection] is important for our [team] and just the way he brings it every night,” Thibodeau said. “So I think it’s important for him and important for the organization. But we can’t lose sight of what the most important thing and that’s the team winning.”
The Knicks are winning more than they have in the last eight years, starting off 15-17 through their first 32 games of the season and they’ve found a reliable fixture in their ranks in Randle to help continue turning things around.
Randle himself recently admitted that “I signed here with the hopes of being here long term. I want to be one of the guys that’s part of this team and eventually, hopefully, we are competing for championships and winning championships.”
For now, the bright lights of New York City is providing the perfect stage for his emergence as one of the game’s top players — finally fulfilling the heights he’s always strived for.
“My goal was never just to play in the NBA,’’ Randle said before his All-Star Game selection. “I always felt that I would get there. I just wanted to be the best player I could possibly be and reach my potential. And I try to push myself every day to do so. It would definitely be a milestone.”