Julius Randle says he’s entering second half of Knicks season in best shape of career

Feb 24, 2023; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) celebrates with guard Jalen Brunson (11) after the game against the Washington Wizards during the second half at Capital One Arena. / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Julius Randle knows how his body usually feels around the All-Star break, after 50-plus games of wear and tear. He feels a little different this year.

“At this point in the season, this is the best I’ve felt physically and mentally,” Randle said earlier this week.

It showed on Friday night, when Randle tied a career-high with 46 points to lead the Knicks to a 115-109 win over Washington.

Randle hit 16 of his 29 attempts against the Wizards – and the Knicks needed every shot to pull out of the nation’s capital with a win.

Randle’s play on Friday was another instance of him putting the Knicks on his shoulders. He’s had a tremendous bounce-back season this year following a sub-par 2021-22 season.

There are many factors behind Randle’s success this season. One of them? His work with trainer Amoila Cesar. Randle referenced Cesar when talking about his fitness – both physically and mentally – at this point in the season.

“He knows me better than anybody,” Randle said of Cesar. “Just consistently creating good habits whether it’s hydration, sleep, stretching, whatever it is.”

This season, Cesar is with Randle in New York. It’s the first time Randle has had Cesar with him in New York during the season.

“We had prior history before and he’s done really well with me not just physically but he knows me as a person. We had a great summer and I just wanted to keep it going,” the two-time All-Star said.

Another reason for Randle’s success this season? His three-point shooting.

Randle was 7-for-14 from beyond the arc against Washington. He’s shooting 34 percent from beyond the arc – a big jump from his percentage last season (30). Forty-three percent of Randle’s attempts this season are from beyond the arc – something that’s been a point of emphasis for Randle for the past three seasons.

“We talked about that three years ago,” Tom Thibodeau said after Friday’s win. “….We always thought that if he changed his shot profile, it would change his game.”

It has. And Randle believes he and the Knicks still have more room to grow over the final six-plus weeks of the season.

“We have another level we can get to. Just keep building,” he said.

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