Oh, and to relieve the sting of Kristaps Porzingis trade, if not to make the sting go away completely.
The 2019 Knicks trade from Porzingis to the Mavericks wasn’t exactly Tom Seaver’s 1977 Mets trade to the Reds, but it still hurt. The main Maverick coming to New York, Dennis Smith Jr., was a disaster, and DeAndre Jordan, the man who was supposed to help lure Olympic teammates and friends Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the garden, ended up with them. join in Brooklyn instead.
Out of desperation, the Knicks had to spend some of that trade-released salary cap money. Randle raised his hand. Friday night in Dallas, with Porzingis on the opposing frontline, all Randle did was deliver 44 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists, leading his team to their fifth straight victory and improving the Knicks’ chances of avoid the Mavericks’ place in the playoffs. seem to be heading towards – the dreaded play-in tournament.
Upon returning to Dallas, Randle became the first Knick since Bernard King in 1985 to end up with at least 40 points, 10 draws and five assists in a single game. He was 16 in 29 on the ground, 6 in 11 in 3 points and almost doubled the points total of Porzingis (23).
“When he added the 3-point shot,” coach Tom Thibodeau said of Randle after his team’s 117-109 win, “that opened up everything else.
Including the possibility that Randle, just eight months older than Porzingis, may simply outdo him in the next three or four years. It would be a tall order to play above the 7-foot-3 Latvian, and a quick glance at Porzingis’ latest act on the pitch as Knick explains why.
That February night of 2018 at the Garden, Giannis Antetokounmpo, the most athletic player in the NBA, held Porzingis’ jersey like a middle-aged weekend warrior would at the Y. Trey Burke was screening the franchise player of the Bucks to the left elbow, and KP was clearing the defender over the foul line, preparing to take a pass from Kyle O’Quinn. But when the Bucks’ Jason Terry jumped into the passing lane, the Unicorn did a very unicorn thing: he stopped at a dime like a wide catcher coming out of a break, split Terry and Antetokounmpo in a dive hard towards the basket, and took Quinn’s rebound pass through the air for a high-flying dunk posterizing above the Greek Freak as the camera lights flashed around them.
Yet just like the Knicks’ most recent booms of prosperity – Linsanity in 2012, Melo’s 54-winning season the following year – this one ended far too quickly. In fact, it went on for about two seconds after that dunk on Antetokounmpo before a fallen Porzingis hit his left knee and started hitting the ground. Fans couldn’t even get out of their seats until their fun turned into devastation. KP had a torn ACL, and almost a year later walked into Steve Mills’ office and told team president and general manager Scott Perry that he wanted out, and that if they didn’t did not exchange it, he would leave for Europe.
Randle’s play (along with the two pending first-round picks the Knicks acquired in Dallas) made Porzingis’ trade much less apocalyptic than it looked at the time. Coming in on Friday night, Randle beat Porzingis (23.2-20.7) and passed him (10.6-9.3), although the Mavs star beat the powerful Knicks forward in player efficiency (22.26-19.73).
Porzingis victimized Randle on a poster dunk during Friday’s game, and it didn’t matter. The Knicks’ top player took a 3 point step back with 1.1 seconds left in the third quarter, which set up the huge fourth. With 4:11 to go and the Knicks holding a six-point lead, Randle made two free throws. He pushed back the lead to eight a minute later making a high runner out of the window. With 1:44 left he sank a speed reversal that appeared to be the clincher.
“He’s our engine,” Thibodeau said. “He makes us go.”
Randle has organized this career season through extreme offseason conditioning work and the confidence that came with it. When he finished dominating his comeback, Randle was asked what it would mean to make him the All-NBA.
“It would be a great achievement,” he said.
Just as great as making New Yorkers forget how much they hated Kristaps Porzingis’ business when it failed.