David Fizdale knew what to expect from $63 million import Julius Randle at the offensive end, but the Knicks’ coach said he was pleased to see his new starting power forward lead the way defensively in Monday’s preseason opener against Washington.
“He was flying around. I mean, he was everywhere for us, defensively,” Fizdale said after Wednesday’s practice. “For a guy that doesn’t necessarily have that reputation, for him to be taking pride on that end of the floor and really locking in, I was excited to see that.
“And then offensively, he did everything I’ve talked about before. He must have brought the ball up for us 10, 12 times in the game and initiated the offense. He played off the block. He played off the elbow. He was making other guys better with his assists and so I’m really happy he’s here. He really gives us a lot of flexibility.”
The 6-foot-9 Randle finished with 11 points, seven assists and seven rebounds against the Wizards. He said he’s been watching film all summer of some of the NBA’s top defensive forwards, such as Draymond Green, P.J. Tucker and Paul George to improve at the defensive end.
“I’m really not worried about scoring the ball. 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds], that type of stuff is easy for me,” Randle said. “I want to make people better on the court. I want to bring everybody along. Guys like Frank [Ntilikina], RJ [Barrett], Mitch [Robinson] and those guys and help them develop, because those guys are key parts to our team. The faster they develop, the better we’ll be, the faster we’ll be better. I want to help them out.
“Defensively, that’s my focus. That’s where I want to make the biggest jump. I want to be able to impact the game on both ends of the floor and continue to add on to what I’ve done in the past and get better.”
According to Fizdale, Dennis Smith Jr. (back) had “limited contact” and did some running drills in practice, but the team is “still just trying to slow-walk that, same with Bobby Portis (bruised ribs).
The coach said the Knicks also are being cautious with Kevin Knox, who has a “light strain” in his calf, because they “don’t want to overdo anything in the preseason and make it worse than it is.”
Tuesday’s trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. had a deep impact on the Knicks’ roster, Fizdale said.
“Oh man, it’s crazy. Those people are sacrificing and that’s what it’s all about,” guard Elfrid Payton said. “Take it a step further than basketball, sacrificing for your teammates, whether it be taking a charge or making that extra pass. Those guys do that with their life.”
Added Randle: “It was amazing, man. Just to get these people’s perspectives on the events they’ve been through and like coach said, they made the ultimate sacrifice. We get to come here and play basketball for a living and freely. I get to go back home to my family and enjoy life. These guys are the true warriors working hard every day to make sure that we’re able to do that. To see how different things in their life have impacted them, just to be able to spend time with them and hopefully brighten up their day was fun.”