NEW YORK — A relaxed Julius Randle, no longer wearing a cast from his ankle surgery, predicted next season as the best of his career because of a confluence of the most important basketball attributes.
“Me and my trainer were just talking about this, we were talking about prime years,” Randle said Wednesday as a guest on ‘The Shop Uninterrupted.’ “And I feel like your prime is when your mental and physical kind of meet. And physically I feel like this is going to be my best year. But mentally I feel like I’ve taken a tremendous step because I’ve had to slow all the way down. I wasn’t allowed to train.”
Randle, 28, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left ankle nearly two months ago. The procedure followed two sprains to the same ankle in a short span and a disappointing performance in the playoffs.
The ending left a bad taste after a strong regular season from Randle, who became just the second Knick since Allan Houston to earn two All-Star appearances.
During his recovery, Randle, who is expected to be 100% by training camp, said he drew inspiration from his teammate — Jalen Brunson — while hoping to learn from some accomplished opponents.
“I’ve studied a lot of people. I studied LeBron and watched how he used angles,” said Randle, who was joined by rappers Method Man and Joe Bada$$ as guests on ‘The Shop,’ which was taped live in Brooklyn. “One of the biggest people that pushed me was my teammate, Jalen. Because I saw how he worked, and I’m a worker. And I saw how diligent he was. And focused. So JB really pushed me. I watched Jimmy [Butler] in the playoffs. All of these guys. We’re all copycats at the end of the day. We learned the game from somebody.”
Despite Randle’s struggles/ankle pain in the postseason, the Knicks advanced to the second round for the first time in a decade. Team president Leon Rose then navigated a quiet offseason by signing Donte DiVincenzo and trading Obi Toppin, leaving the impression he was comfortable running it back with Randle and Brunson as the stars.
As Randle noted Wednesday, expectations are now elevated.
“It’s always going to be unfinished business,” he said. “So we made it to the second round, we have aspirations for obviously bigger and better things. We want to win a championship at the end of the day.”
Randle’s “championship” reference drew applause from the crowd in Brooklyn and a joke from host Maverick Carter about making declarative headlines. Randle was careful to clarify, “I said, ‘We want to win a championship, not that we’re going to.”
After all, there’s enough pressure playing for the Knicks.
“Yeah, it’s different. It’s definitely different from every other place. It’s tough,” said Randle, who also played for the Lakers. “Especially for a person like me who cares so much. And wants to win. And wants to win every single game. My friends will tell you, my wife, everybody will tell you I’m a sore loser. And the media, it’s tough. But I could say being here in New York had made me who I am to this day. It built me.”