rj barrett julius randle knicks
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As Julius Randle struggles to lead, RJ Barrett steps up in his place.

The NBA is fining the New York Knicks $25,000 for not making Julius Randle available to the media after a loss to the Pelicans. The one-time All-Star is struggling on and off the court.

Randle has been up and down all year long. He’s lacking the calm consistency that characterized his All-NBA season. Instead, he’s gone from the Most Improved Player to a disappointment.

Although New York fans can be among the most demanding in the country, they are also up there with the most loyal. Knicks fans will always show up to MSG no matter what the team’s record. When things aren’t going well, they have a way of letting the players know.

Boos.


Understandably, Randle doesn’t like the boos. He expressed his frustration with the fans during a comeback win with a thumbs-down gesture to the crowd. He was still hot in his postgame press conference but later apologized to the fans.

Unfortunately for Randle, it’s tough to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Fans and media alike are going to be quick to jump on him. It’s part of the deal in New York.

While Randle is avoiding the media, RJ Barrett is stepping forward. Check that, he’s euro-stepping tough questions like a seasoned veteran.

He doesn’t provide much detail in his answer, but he’s not letting the ups and downs get to him. The third-year pro can remain steady in choppy waters. This is in stark contrast to what we’ve seen from Randle.

Both Barrett and Randle have experienced their fair share of ups and downs on the court this season. The difference is that Barrett’s effort level and focus never seem to waver.

The same can’t be said of Randle. He’s the leader in the clubhouse for the Worst Body Language award, is often the last guy back down the court on defense, and now he won’t answer questions in the media about it.

To be clear, I don’t think players should have to answer questions from the media after every game, but there has to be a middle ground. Players couldn’t hide from the media in the pre-COVID world when reporters could mingle in the locker rooms before and after games.

But in this post-COVID world we live in, it’s not so easy to get a hold of a player who wants to lay low.

Randle’s rough patch on and off the court is hurting the Knicks, but it’s also highlighting the mental toughness of Barrett.

The Knicks took Barrett with the hopes that he could develop into a No. 1 option. He seems to have the mental makeup to be a leader in the crucible that is New York City. The jury is still out on Randle.

Knicks, Nets, NY/NJ college hoops, and sports betting reporter. Mostly basketball, but a little bit of everything when it comes to NY sports. Never had the makings of a varsity athlete.