Heading into his sixth NBA season, Julius Randle is excited to be playing for the Knicks. It will be Randle's first season with New York, after signing a three-year $63 million contract with the team over the summer. He spent his first four years with the Los Angeles Lakers and the 2018-2019 season with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Randle acknowledged that he's going to be a leader with his new team, and is focused on helping center Mitchell Robinson take a leap forward in his second season in the league.
"That was one of the things I talked to Fiz about, that I was extremely excited about. Mitch has no clue how talented he is, how good he can be," Randle said. "Me being a leader of this team, I'm definitely going to push him, to try to maximize his potential. That's a kid I'm extremely excited to play with day in and day out."
During the 2018-2019 season, Robinson impressed many by making the NBA's second All-Rookie team after averaging 7.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game. He finished second in the league in blocks per game, only behind Indiana's Myles Turner who had 2.7 blocks per game.
Robinson was drafted by the Knicks with the 36th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft after forgoing college. He was highly rated out of high school, and ranked 11th overall by ESPN in their 2017 top 100 rankings. Robinson had enrolled at Western Kentucky for the 2017-2018 season, but was suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules and looked to transfer before declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft.
"For me, it'll be fun. He's so long, so athletic, that you can really get into guys on the defensive end of the floor. And you know you got that guy behind you," Randle said.
Randle even recalls playing against Robinson and the Knicks last season at Madison Square Garden.
"We had played at the Garden last season, and we had played Mitch," Randle said. "And he kept coming, like I would get to the basket or I'd get past the first person and he kept coming out of nowhere. And I'm like, 'man, who in the world is this kid'... He was just everywhere. I'm glad I got him on my team, I don't gotta deal with it now."
The game Randle is referring to was on Nov. 23, 2018, as the Knicks beat the Pelicans 114-109 at the Garden. Randle had 13 points and 10 rebounds in 29 minutes of action, while Robinson had five points, one rebound and two blocks in just nine minutes.
The two big men could form a much needed strong interior defense for the Knicks this season, as the team allowed 113.8 points per game (22nd out of 30) in the 2018-2019 season.