Julius Randle makes his case for All-Star team with career-night in Knicks win over Hawks

Julius Randle close shot shooting vs. Hawks

Julius Randle won’t be a starter on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. He’ll need to be voted in as a reserve. NBA coaches vote for those All-Star spots.

You can’t vote for your own player. So Tom Thibodeau can’t vote for Randle.

But the Knicks coach believes his forward is playing at an All Star level.

“Absoutely. And it’s not just what he’s done statistically, but the impact on winning. He’s making other people better,” Thibodeau said after Randle scored 44 points and hit a career high seven three-pointers in a win over Atlanta.

Randle is averaging career-highs in minutes, points, 3-point field goal percentage, rebounds and assists for New York. And he’s one of the main reasons that the Knicks (14-15) are in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

“He’s played an all-around game, strong on both sides of the ball. He’s played an unselfish game. He’s doing it in a number of different ways,” Thibodeau said of Randle. “He’s playing multiple positions. He’s a point forward, he’s a forward, he’s a center. He’s doing it all. But the most important thing is the impact that he’s having on winning and hopefully it’ll be recognized.”

The reserves will be announced on Feb. 23. One assistant coach, who won’t have a vote in the process, thought Randle put together a strong resume for a spot on the Eastern Conference team. “You can make a case for Bam (Adebayo) but look at their record (the Heat are 11-16),” he said. “I’d probably vote for (Randle) over Bam.”

This coach doesn’t get a vote. But the idea that the Knicks are playing well above preseason expectations should help Randle, who has excelled at creating open looks for his teammates.

“Oftentimes what does get overlooked is how unselfish he is,” Thibodeau said. “When he’s spraying the ball around, we’re hard to guard.”

After struggling in his first year in New York, Randle used criticism as part of his motivation in the offseason. He worked out daily on his conditioning, his shot and he returned to New York in the best shape of his career.

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Randle was asked late Monday about his motivation during the offseason.

“Honestly, I just felt like I kind of let the team down last year. I felt like I didn’t have my best performance,” he said. “A lot of it wasn’t because I didn’t put the work in. I just had to go through a year of growth and a year of experience of being in the position I was in.

“For me I just wanted to come back and be a better player. And to do that and come back with Thibs and those guys and (Kenny Payne) and come back and be in a position I was put in, I was prepared for it. I knew what I had to do.

“A lot of people may have written me off. A lot of people may have had their doubts or whatever in me. And that was just motivation, that was fuel. For me it was just coming back a better player and a better teammate than I was last year.”

Credit Randle for accomplishing both of those goals. The Knicks are now reaping the benefits.

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