Knicks president Leon Rose, in his first comments since September, gave a vote of confidence to embattled coach Tom Thibodeau and embattled power forward Julius Randle before Sunday’s season finale versus the Raptors.
Rose gave no indication he’s firing Thibodeau or trading Randle, acknowledging Randle is one of three NBA players to average 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while saying the coach “did a good job under the circumstances.” But Rose admitted Randle wasn’ t “comfortable” this season.
“Julius is a passionate player,” Rose said on MSG Network. “Last year everything went right. This year, things didn’t go right. Things happened on the court, we saw some emotion coming out, saw some things happening. I think it affected his play at times. He felt remorseful for some of those things as he expressed to the fans in his letter he sent.
“[He] was just not comfortable at times. It was just not being comfortable. He gave it his best effort. The 3-point shot just didn’t go like last year, and you had teams keying on him more this year. At the end, he made some adjustments. I was proud of the fact he did fight through it.”
In addition to praising Thibodeau and Randle, Rose said the team will continue to negotiate with Knicks center Mitchell Robinson up until the July 1 start of free agency to determine whether they can work out a contract extension.
As for future moves, Rose said the club will remain “very flexible” if “opportunities” arise.
Rose chose to break his silence only with the in-house network owned by Garden CEO James Dolan. Rose didn’t take questions from the Knicks beat writers 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 dismal decline after last season’s 41-31 record.
“I feel as though it’s been a disappointing season from the standpoint of wins and losses,” Rose said. “We’ll take a good hard look at it after the season in evaluating everybody. The first year things clicked. This year, from the beginning, things didn’t click. We faced adversity. We had some tough stretches.”
Rose hired Thibodeau to a five-year deal and despite the lost season, he’s not looking to make a move after his hire won 2021 NBA Coach of the year.
“As far as Thibs’ performance goes, I mean he’s one of the best coaches in the NBA,” Rose said. “So obviously, none of us are happy with the results this year. But he’s a guy who prepares our team better than anybody. I feel that he’s done a good job under the circumstances.”
Thibodeau couldn’t get Randle to be a leader. Randle shut it down for the season’s final five games. Rose says he’s under the belief Randle wants to be here next season. The Post reported people around the league feel Randle is acting in a “James Harden way” to force a move.
Asked by host Mike Breen if Randle has told him he wants to be here, the former CAA agent said, “Yes he did. Julius loves it here in New York, wants to be in New York.”
Indications are the Knicks could easily lose Robinson to free agency, but Rose wouldn’t rule out a contract extension before July 1.
“There has been ongoing discussions throughout the year with his agent and those discussions will continue, will continue for the remainder of the time till free agency,” Rose said.
Robinson got kudos from the Knicks president, who said he had “a phenomenal year” but added items such as “injury history” are factored in. Robinson missed most of last season with a broken foot and broken hand.
“He was our anchor on defense and really took a nice step this year,” Rose said. “And even showed us a little bit on offense, especially that one through the legs, then down the lane for the dunk.”
The silver lining is the team’s youth, Rose said, pointing out nine players under 21. “We’ve seen some good development and continue to build on that.”