Julius Randle lamented the losses of Reggie Bullock and Elfrid Payton to free agency, but believes the Knicks might just be “even better’’ with more “firepower.’’
After officially signing his four-year, $117 million contract extension, Randle spoke on Zoom to hail the offseason moves after the Knicks’ 41-31 season. He even likes the new rookies out of the 2021 draft.
And for anyone doubting Randle’s All-Star season was a fluke, the power forward had a strong message.
“People who say that don’t know s–t about me,” Randle said. “If you watched my career every year, I’ve gotten better. If you think that, have fun with that take.’’
Las Vegas oddsmakers curiously reduced the Knicks in their over-under for wins, putting them at 42 ½ — tied for eighth highest in the East. The Knicks finished in a tie for fourth place and have added former All-Star Kemba Walker and 3-point shooter Evan Founier.
“We lost two great teammates in Reggie and Elfrid,’’ Randle said. “We know what they brought to our team – we know defensively obviously. That was a big part of our team last year and how close we were really translated. It was tough seeing those guys go but they’re in great situations.
“But Kemba and Evan, it’s going to be huge for us. Those guys can really make shots, spread the floor, make plays and give us a lot of firepower. I’m extremely excited. As long as we keep our main thing the main thing, defending and playing hard every night, I feel we’ll be an even better team so I’m excited.’’
Randle said he watched the Las Vegas summer league and came away delighted with performances by point guard Miles McBride, Quentin Grimes and center Jericho Sims. Randle said he also was told by coach Tom Thibodeau how hard they worked.
“When I saw those guys, they’re competitive and they’re skilled,’’ Randle said.
Randle said he chose to extend his contract now because of a desire to “continue to build this thing out.’’
Before Leon Rose arrived, former Knicks president Steve Mills and current GM Scott Perry had the wherewithal and belief to pivot after losing out on Kevin Durant and ink Randle to a three-year deal. He’ll make $20 million in 2021-22 before his new deal kicks in.
Randle chose to bypass the potential of unrestricted free agency to lock in now and forgo a potential maximum contract if last season proves no fluke.
“Julius Randle embodies everything you want your star player and leader to be about, and we couldn’t be happier about the long-term commitment we made to each other,” Rose said in a statement. “His hard work and dedication to his craft are second to none and what he did last season won’t be forgotten by New Yorkers any time soon. We can’t wait to see what’s next for him.”
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