Despite winning the “Most Improved Player” award this past season, New York Knicks’ power forward Julius Randle didn’t earn much consideration from Team USA to qualify for the Olympic squad.
Randle earned himself his first All-Star caliber performance this year, averaging a career-high 24.1 points, 6.0 assists, and 10.2 rebounds per game. He shot 45.6% from the field and 41% from range, proving to be a bonafide star for a team that desperately needed a leader and dominant force.
There’s no question that Randle deserved an opportunity to play for Team USA, who instead rolled with center JaVale McGee, who offers more defensive prowess. Randle was also adequate on defense this past season, with the capabilities to play center, averaging nearly a steal per game and 0.3 blocks. While offense was obviously his MO, he averaged 37.6 minutes and played in 71 games, a reliable figure that deserves more praise.
According to Marc Berman of the NY Post, Team USA never offered Julius Randle a spot:
The U.S. Olympic team, in search of two replacement players for Tokyo, never made Knicks All-Star power forward Julius Randle an offer, according to multiple industry sources.
Kevin Durant ripped his father a new one when he asked him to take a meeting with the Knicks:
Matt Sullivan wrote in his book, “Can’t Knock The Hustle: Inside The Season of Protest, Pandemic, and Progress with The Brooklyn Nets’ Superstars of Tomorrow” that Wayne Pratt desperately wanted KD to be a Knick:
“KD texted his dad: What you think about Brooklyn?” Sullivan wrote in his new book. “Like his agent, KD’s occasionally estranged father, Wayne Pratt, was a Knicks fan. When Wayne told his son that he’d taken a video-conference call from the Knicks executives Steve Mills and Scott Perry, and that the Knicks were trying to turn away KD’s interest from Brooklyn before free agency had officially begun, the father-son text chain blew up with expletives. KD didn’t think it was on anyone to mess with his personal freedom.
“Plus, this Knicks meeting seemed to be a violation of the NBA’s rules against tampering, to “entice, induce or persuade” one player under contract to sign somewhere.”
After a frustrated Durant confronted his father, it led to a heated exchange.
“Let me explain one f****** thing to you, his dad responded,” Sullivan wrote. “Don’t you ever question my integrity. There’s nobody more important in this world when it comes to you THAN YOU.}
Well, why can’t I do something different?
The Knicks is Mecca, KD’s dad declared. If you want to do it, do it big! If you want to be a New Yorker, be a Knick!”
Despite Durant’s obvious desire to play for Brooklyn, it was the bright lights of MSG and prominent platform that scared him away from being a Knick.
“New York City was the Mecca of basketball, and KD wanted to live there. But he felt like Brooklyn was his vibe: “chill, on the low, all-black everything.” He’d been eyeing the Nets for years now, and they him,” Sullivan added. “Dad shot back: Are you doing this just for Kyrie cuz he your buddy?
No, KD replied. He was making this decision for himself.”
If Durant had chosen to sign with the Knicks two years ago, they would’ve had a fantastic duo with Randle and the perennial All-NBA. This season, he averaged 26.9 points, 5.6 assists, 7.1 rebounds, and shot 53.7% from the field and 45% from range over 5.4 attempts per game. Of course, Durant is one of the best players to ever live and arguably the best offensive weapon to ever step foot on a basketball court, but his desire to stay low-key and off the grid clearly played into his decision.
Hopefully, President Leon Rose can draw attention from big names this off-season, especially with plenty of money to throw around and a playoff appearance to present a convincing factor.