Julius Randle

New York Knicks’ Julius Randle ‘regrets’ thumbs-down gesture, remarks to fans

NEW YORK — Julius Randle apologized in a statement on his Instagram account on Friday, saying that his thumbs-down gesture to Knicks fans during Thursday’s win over the Boston Celtics as well as his postgame remarks were “an example of how sometimes you say things you regret to people you love.”

“Just want to send a quick message to our fans and be clear — I love NYC and being a part of this team and this franchise,” Randle wrote. “And like most Knicks fans, I am really passionate about us being successful.

“My family and I love how the fans and New Yorkers have embraced and accepted us and have made us feel great about our decision to commit long-term with the team this past summer. This support means the world to us.

“I understand that my actions also represent the league, this organization, and the city, and that I should have handled things last night differently and expressed myself with more professionalism and more appropriate language in the heat of the moment. My comment was an example of how sometimes you say things you regret to people you love, even if it came from a place of passion and deep love.

“Nobody wants to win more than me and I will continue to show loyalty and dedication to my teammates, the entire Knicks organization, and the fans who have shown me and my family so much love. I am going to keep focusing on the future.”

Randle gave fans at Madison Square Garden, who had been booing during the first part of the game, a thumbs-down after making a layup midway through the fourth quarter of New York’s come-from-behind win, and he appeared to shake his head after the crowd chanted “M-V-P” a minute later.

After the game, when asked what he meant by his thumbs-down to the fans, Randle bluntly said, “Shut the f— up.”

Randle was similarly blunt Wednesday after the Knicks practiced in Westchester, when asked what he thought about the negativity that has surrounded him this season.

“I really don’t give a f— what anybody has to say, to be honest,” Randle said. “I’m out there playing. Nobody knows the game out there better than I do, compared to what everybody has to say.

“So I really don’t give a s—. I just go out there and play.”

Randle’s remarks earned him a $25,000 fine from the league for his “egregious use of profane language,” in media interviews, the NBA said in a statement Saturday.

Randle’s thumbs-down gesture immediately stood out because of what happened with the New York Mets this summer, when shortstop Javier Baez hit a home run and gave the crowd at Citi Field a pair of thumbs-down. Baez said later that his gesture was in response to the fans’ treatment of him and his teammates throughout the season.

Randle set career highs in several categories last season, including scoring, rebounding, assists, 3-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage, and he signed a four-year, $117 million extension this offseason.

This season, though, has been far different. Randle’s production has dipped, most notably his 3-point shooting, which is down more than 8% from last season.

New York plays Boston again Saturday, this time on the road. The Knicks have won seven of their past 11 games — including 7 of 9 that Randle has played — and are in 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins, Steven Adams placed in NBA’s health and safety protocols

The Memphis Grizzlies placed coach Taylor Jenkins in the NBA’s health and safety protocols Saturday, according to the team.

Nearly half the league’s head coaches have now entered the protocols at some point this season, with Jenkins becoming the 14th.

The Grizzlies play at the LA Clippers on Saturday afternoon, with Memphis assistant Brad Jones serving as the team’s interim coach.

Memphis also placed center Steven Adams in the health and safety protocols. Adams had been the only Grizzlies player to appear in the team’s first 40 games this season and entered the day as one of only 17 players around the NBA to not miss a game in the 2021-22 campaign.

Ja Morant also was ruled out of Saturday’s game with a thigh injury.

“Yes, we have to plan when we find out that so-and-so’s got COVID or so-and-so’s got an injury,” Jones said. “Who’s the next man up, blah blah blah. … It’s a challenging time, obviously.”

Jenkins’ addition comes one day after Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd entered the protocols. Kidd tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday night.

Jenkins was fully involved in Saturday’s game plan, Jones said, noting they spoke several times that morning alone.

“Hopefully, other than a different-looking, uglier guy, older guy on the sidelines, you guys won’t notice any difference with what’s going on out there,” Jones said.

Sources: 70% of eligible NBA players received COVID-19 booster shots

About 70% of eligible NBA players have now received COVID-19 booster shots, sources told ESPN, a number that comprises about 350 total players — more than half of a league that has a total player count typically hovering around 500.

The NBA has encouraged and incentivized receiving booster shots and, in a memo sent to teams Thursday and obtained by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, is requiring non-boosted players to undergo daily coronavirus testing through the All-Star break in mid-February. The league is also restricting those players’ attendance at large indoor gatherings, bars and clubs, the memo stated.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver told ESPN’s Malika Andrews in late December that the omicron variant was responsible for 90% of the positive cases that the league was seeing, but that number has now reached 100%, sources told ESPN.

As of Friday afternoon, 314 players total have entered the league’s health and safety protocols this season, with 252 entering in December and 53 entering so far in January. Thirteen NBA head coaches have also entered health and safety protocols, and the NBA has postponed 11 games so far this season because of COVID-related issues.

Phoenix Suns win NBA-leading 30th game behind Chris Paul’s triple-double

Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns have turned into some of the league’s best closers. It’s a big reason they’ve reached 30 wins before any other team in the NBA this season.

Paul had a triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Suns improved to 25-0 when leading after three quarters by beating the LA Clippers 106-89 on Thursday night.

As usual, the 36-year-old Paul was the maestro making big plays in the final minutes to close out the Clippers. He hit a crucial 3-pointer and had five assists in the fourth quarter.

“Some teams’ biggest issue is that they don’t know what they want to run or who they want to go to down the stretch,” Paul said. “I think we have a good sense of that. We know what our go-to plays are.”

The Suns moved a game ahead of Golden State for the best record in the league. They’ve won three straight and four of five. That’s despite several players missing considerable time this season, including All-Star guard Devin Booker.

“I just think the players have done a really good job of driving our culture,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We have unreal guard play, which really helps.”

Paul continues to look 26 years old instead of 36, doing a little of everything to keep the Suns among the league’s elite. His 13 rebounds were a career high in his 1,128th regular-season NBA game.

Cam Johnson added a career-high 24 points, and Jalen Smith — the second-year forward whose playing time has drastically increased recently because of the Suns’ COVID-19 issues — had another good game with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

“We’re having a lot of fun playing together,” Johnson said. “Things are starting to click.”

Those performances helped offset a tough night for Booker, who shot just 5 of 22 from the field and finished with 11 points. He was 0 of 7 on 3-pointers.

Williams said center Deandre Ayton, forward Jae Crowder and JaVale McGee have all cleared the league’s COVID-19 protocols, but were held out of the game as they work their way back into shape. Guard Landry Shamet is still in the protocol.

The Clippers dropped below .500 at 19-20 despite a season-high 26 points from former Suns forward Marcus Morris Sr. Reggie Jackson added 16. The Clippers were missing guards Luke Kennard and Xavier Moon, along with center Ivica Zubac, because of COVID-19 protocols.

“We scraped and competed,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “That is a good ball club over there and they played well. Their stars took over down the stretch and took over the game.”

The Suns led by 17 points midway through the third quarter, but the Clippers cut it to 73-66 in the next few minutes. The Suns took a 75-66 lead into the final quarter.

The Clippers pulled to 79-76 with 8:36 left when Amir Coffey converted a three-point play after making a layup while being fouled. But the Suns responded with the next six points and slowly pulled away.

The Suns jumped out to a 56-40 halftime lead after outscoring the Clippers by 15 in the second quarter. Johnson led the Suns with 17 points before the break. Morris had 13 for the Clippers.

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