The Knicks fell behind by 25 points at one point and were hearing the boo birds from the crowd at Madison Square Garden. Randle, who finished with 22 points on 8-of-20 from the field, wasn’t having any of it and put a thumbs-down to the crowd.
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) and Kemba Walker react during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, Dec. 25, 2021, in New York. The Knicks won 101-87. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
He was asked about what the gesture meant.
“Shut the f— up,” he responded, via SNY.
It was quite the response for a player who became a fan favorite last season when he averaged 24.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. He’s only averaging 19.6 and 10.1 rebounds per game this season as the team sits in 10th place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 19-20 record.
Evan Fournier, who had a career-high 41 points in the comeback win, defended Randle.
Detroit Pistons forward Saddiq Bey (41) and New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) reach for a loose ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
“Jules, getting to know him, he’s an emotional guy. Because he puts so much into what he does. He probably wasn’t happy about that. Honestly, no big deal in my opinion. The dude played hard as hell, he fought extremely hard and he played well. So when you give everything you have for something and you put so much into something and it doesn’t work out or you’re being called out, sometimes it’s frustrating,” Fournier said.
“But it’s the business that we’re in. And Julius is the image of the franchise. He’s the star player. Of course, he’s going to get more criticism. But that comes with it. And I think he understands it. If I remember well, his first year here he was getting booed consistently and then he bounced back and had an incredible season last year, so that shows a lot of mental toughness. So I’m not worried about Julius at all.”
Knicks fans, who always have high expectations for their team at the beginning of the season, were through the roof when the team made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2013. But through the first 39 games of the season, the team is clearly struggling to stay consistent.
New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) looks to pass the ball around Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
Randle, who was the Most Improved Player last season, an All-Star and dubbed the face of the franchise, is sure to hear the boos when he’s playing poorly and the cheers when he lifts the season all season long. Telling the fans to “f-off” when the team is struggling probably isn’t the best thing to do at this juncture.