ORLANDO, Fla. — Julius Randle said his goal was to be the team’s leader this season. And he stepped up in the locker room after the Magic’s 95-83 victory over the Knicks that dropped the visitors’ record to 1-4.
Randle said he’s been a culprit in the slow start and has to get better. He put up good numbers, 16 points on 7 of 13 shooting with 10 rebounds and seven assists.
He cut his turnover total to three (the Knicks had just 11). But Randle, who had 19 turnovers in the prior three games, pointed to himself as needing to rev up this offense that struggled to hit 80 points Wednesday.
“I’m not honestly feeling great,’’ Randle said in a low voice. “I’m not playing well. I took a little step forward today. Just trying to trust my teammates. I’m not forcing it. But I have a long way to go before I really feel like myself and do what I know I’m capable of.”
At one juncture, after Randle missed a contested shot, coach David Fizdale yelled, “Stop trying to be a hero.” Fizdale also barked the same remark to Bobby Portis at another point in the game.
Randle is glad there are 77 games left to prove he is every bit worth the $63 million contract.
“It’s early,’’ Randle said. “I’d rather have the struggles early, adjusting to playing with nine new players. It’s really difficult in the NBA. I keep watching film. I take my lumps and I’ll get better. It doesn’t discourage me. I feel we have a really good team. I’m just going to keep getting better and keep getting these guys to improve.”
Randle’s numbers are not awful (16.4 points and 11.3 rebounds per game), but his turnovers and 3-point shooting are concerns. He is shooting 1 of 12 from deep. Randle said this week the struggle is adapting to the new double-teams he is facing for the first time in his career.
He had been known as a reluctant passer until this season. He’s now in more of a point-forward role.
“We’re getting there,’’ Randle said of Fizdale harping on the lack of ball movement late in games. “Most of the game it was OK until late, when our pace let up a little bit. We just got to trust it. We got to look at the shot clock — all 24 seconds of it.”
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