The New York Knicks are struggling a little after getting off to a flying start, and they currently find themselves outside watching the stacked Eastern Conference playoff race.

Much of the difficulty is due to the fact that last year’s All-Star selection Julius Randle is not really playing at the levels he showed the previous season. He’s definitely the driving force behind the team, and with the loss of Derrick Rose for about a month, he’s going to have to step up.

Randle has received a lot of criticism from the media and fans this season, and a lot is justified, but the Knicks big man isn’t letting it happen to him.

Speaking to reporters, Randle put it very bluntly, saying he didn’t let any outside noise bother him.

“I really don’t care what anyone has to say, to be honest,” he said via The Athletic. “I’m over there playing. No one knows the game better than I do, compared to what everyone else has to say. So, I really don’t care. I’m just going over there and playing.

Last season Randle was playing for a new contract with the Knicks, and he’s proven he deserves one. After averaging 24.1 points per game, 10.2 rebounds and six assists in 71 games, Randle found himself in the All-NBA squad and a first All-Star.

In the offseason, the Knicks rewarded him with a new contract, and his numbers have since fallen across the board. In 36 games this season, he’s averaged 19.6 points per game, 10.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists. These are still good numbers, but it’s also 42.3% shots on the ground as well as 32.7% from beyond the arc, a massive decrease from his 41.1%. shots compared to three last year.

“It’s like the backup quarterback, everyone thinks the backup should start until he has to start” pic.twitter.com/4uqlJxw298

For what it’s worth, the Knicks coach has his back for his star player. Just days ago, Thibodeau responded to the growing trend that Obi Toppin should have more minutes with the team, and maybe even start.

“The point is, this is the day and age of social media, and this is what social media is,” Thibodeau told reporters. “You try not to pay attention to it, because it really doesn’t make any sense, whether it’s praise or criticism. It doesn’t really matter. Really what matters is what we think. And so, we know how important it is. But it’s like the backup quarterback. Everyone thinks the backup should start until it needs to start.

Considering his stature, it would be hard to imagine a scenario where Randle ever came off the bench. The Knicks don’t exactly have a strong offense, so they need him to deliver if the team has any hope of succeeding.

Thursday night there will be a rematch of the season opener where the Knicks came out victorious in overtime, but the Celtics are also looking to answer questions from their skeptics, so that should be good.

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