- Julius Randle got in the best shape of his life last summer, which included running barefoot miles.
- Randle won over new Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau by showing off his fitness and hunger to improve.
- Randle had a career year, won Most Improved Player, and led the Knicks to the playoffs.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Julius Randle’s offseason workouts laid the foundation for a breakout year that resulted in winning Most Improved Player.
Randle had a disappointing first season with the New York Knicks. After signing a three-year, $62 million deal with the Knicks in the summer of 2019, Randle put up decent per-game stats but was also inefficient shooting the ball and turnover-prone.
In some ways, he became the face of a 2019-20 Knicks team that fell flat.
Determined to turn things around, Randle used the extended offseason (the Knicks weren’t invited to the NBA’s Disney bubble) to get in the best shape of his life.
As The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov detailed in January, Randle bought a house in Dallas, Texas, in the summer and installed a home gym.
According to Vorkunov, Randle began working with two trainers. One of them, Melvin Sanders, trains several pro athletes and believes in conducting workouts without shoes.
Each day, Randle got up at 5:30 in the morning and ran a shoeless mile on a treadmill. Over the course of summer, his time dropped from eight minutes to 5:30, according to Vorkunov.
Randle’s schedule involved several workouts per day, finishing with shooting 1,000 to 1,500 shots at night.
During the offseason, Randle lost an estimated 10-15 pounds and had dropped his body fat to 5%, according to Vorkunov.
Randle won over Tom Thibodeau
Randle’s fitness and work ethic made a big impression on new Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau over the summer.
Thibodeau told ESPN that he brought in Randle for a private workout over the offseason to see where his highest-paid player stood. Thibodeau told ESPN that he was wowed by the shape Randle was in and how hungry he seemed for success.
“When I first got hired, I asked him to come in so we could spend some time, just to get to know each other,” Thibodeau said, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “And when he came in — you never know the type of shape someone’s in. I had an impression of him from coaching against him. I knew he was talented and all those things, but you don’t know who the person is.
“And when I saw — he was in incredible shape. So I was working him out myself, and I saw his work capacity.”
Randle said an instant connection formed between him and Thibodeau.
“We kind of like, from the very beginning, hit it off,” Randle said on “The Woj Pod” on ESPN. “I came in a couple times throughout the summer. I think he just saw how serious I was about my craft. And I know that’s how he is. He’s very serious about his craft.”
The eight teams not invited to the Disney bubble held mini-bubble training camps over the offseason. Participation was voluntary.
Thibodeau said Randle impressed him by showing up and working hard.
“Just his willingness to come in and work and lead, and I could see how hungry he was,” Thibodeau told ESPN. “I felt like this was the guy that could help set the tone for us.”
Randle’s offseason work translated to one of the best seasons in the NBA. He averaged 24 points, 10 rebounds, and 6 assists per game while shooting 40% from three, becoming just the second player ever to do so.
In turn, Randle led the Knicks to a 41-31 record, good for the 4th seed in the East and the team’s first playoff appearance since 2013.
Randle will be up for an extension worth a maximum of $106 million over four years this offseason. It’s the kind of deal that would make him the team’s centerpiece for the foreseeable future.
Randle’s next mission will be proving this year wasn’t a fluke or one-off, but the sign of the new player he molded.