Knicks president Leon Rose, in his first comments since September, gave embattled coach Tom Thibodeau and embattled power forward Julius Randle a vote of confidence before Sunday’s season finale against the Raptors.
Rose gave no indication that he would fire Thibodeau or trade Randle, acknowledging that Randle is one of only three players in the NBA to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, saying the coach “did a good job given the circumstances”. But Rose admitted that Randle wasn’t. t “comfortable” this season.
“Julius is a passionate gamer,” Rose said on MSG Network. “Last year everything went well. This year, things did not go well. Things happened on the court, we saw some emotions come out, we saw some things happen. I think he affected his game at times. He felt sorry for some of those things as he expressed to the fans in the letter he sent.
“[He] it just wasn’t comfortable at times. He just wasn’t comfortable. He gave his best effort. The 3-point shot just wasn’t like it was last year, and there were teams that pushed it harder this year. In the end, he made some adjustments. He was proud of the fact that he fought through it.”
In addition to praising Thibodeau and Randle, Rose said the team will continue to negotiate with Knicks center Mitchell Robinson through the start of free agency on July 1 to determine if they can reach a contract extension.
As for future moves, Rose said the club will remain “very flexible” if “opportunities” arise.
Rose chose to break her silence only with the internal network owned by Garden CEO James Dolan. Rose didn’t answer questions from the Knicks’ hit writers on Sunday, nor has he since mid-September.
Rose spoke on the pregame show in what appeared to be a taped and edited interview to explain the team’s sad decline after last season’s 41-31 record.
“I feel like it’s been a disappointing season from a win-loss standpoint,” Rose said. “We will take a hard look at it after the season to assess everyone. The first year things clicked. This year, from the beginning, things did not add up. We face adversity. We had some difficult sections.”
Rose signed Thibodeau to a five-year deal and despite the missed season, he’s not looking to make a move after his hire won the 2021 NBA Coach of the Year award.
“As far as Thibs’ performance, I want to say he’s one of the best coaches in the NBA,” Rose said. “Obviously none of us are happy with the results this year. But he is a guy who prepares our team better than anyone. I feel like he has done a good job given the circumstances.”
Thibodeau couldn’t get Randle to be a leader. Randle closed it out for the final five games of the season. Rose says that she thinks Randle wants to be here next season. The Post reported that people around the league feel that Randle is acting in a “James Harden” manner to force a move.
Asked by host Mike Breen if Randle told him he wanted to be here, the former CAA agent said, “Yes, he did. Julius loves being here in New York, he wants to be in New York.”
Indications are that the Knicks could easily lose Robinson in free agency, but Rose wouldn’t rule out a contract extension before July 1.
“There have been ongoing conversations all year with his agent and those conversations will continue, will continue for the remainder of the time leading up to free agency,” Rose said.
Robinson drew praise from the Knicks president, who said he had “a phenomenal year” but added items such as “injury history.” Robinson missed most of last season with a broken foot and hand.
“He was our anchor on defense and he really stepped up this year,” Rose said. “And even he showed us a little bit on offense, especially that one between the legs, then down the lane for the dunk.”
The silver lining is the youth of the team, Rose said, pointing to nine players under the age of 21. “We have seen good development and we continue to build on that.”