The Knicks have been slow under Tom Thibodeau. Very slow.
Their offense was dead-last in pace during the coach’s first campaign, then moved up just one spot to 29th last season.
With the first week of training camp in the books, the Knicks have been vague about specific goals with one exception: playing faster.’
“It’s just the way the game is going,” Julius Randle said. “There are so many more possessions, high-scoring games. So, it’s just the way the league is going and an adjustment that everybody has to make.”
Randle buying into a quicker pace is important toward that endeavor. The power forward spent much of the last two seasons operating with the ball while leading the team, by far, in isolations. So it was an encouraging sign that Randle said he dropped weight in the summer to get up and down the floor.
“I want to be able to adjust and play faster, play on and off the ball,” Randle said. “For me, being in shape is always number one, so I take pride in that and every year I try to go back and look at how and adjust how I can be better and play faster and quicker basketball. Be efficient.
On paper, the Knicks’ starting lineup isn’t constructed for a run-and-gun style. That’s more the vibe of the reserves with Obi Toppin, Derrick Rose, Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes.
But Thibodeau asserted Saturday that Randle is adept in transition and playing off the ball. He witnessed it as an opposing coach when Randle was in New Orleans alongside Anthony Davis and Los Angeles alongside either D’Angelo Russell or Brandon Ingram.
“Having coached against him, one of the things I worried about was him running the floor,” Thibodeau said. “So if we can get him down the floor and catch small guys on him, catch the defense before it’s set — that’s a big advantage for us. Playing off the ball and catching it on the run and driving it through the elbow. Those are things that he’s done well in the past and I want him to get back to that.”
Of course, this will require an adjustment from Randle. It’s one thing to finish a lay-up in transition, it’s another to run around without the ball in the half-court. Egos tend to get involved when a player is asked to relinquish the control of the offense.
But that’s the reality as Randle enters his fourth season with the Knicks. He’ll finally have a reliable playmaker as the starting point guard in Jalen Brunson. RJ Barrett’s evolution calls for more opportunities.
Randle can succeed as the secondary option in motion.
“Because of the strength of the club, we can use him in different ways,” Thibodeau said. “He doesn’t always have to have the ball. He can play off the ball.”