Emotional Stephen A. Smith calls for the Knicks to trade Julius Randle and get in Damian Lillard after playoff defeat – as he says Jalen Brunson was ‘the only one who showed up’
- The ESPN NBA analyst was on the verge of tears after the Knicks lost on Friday
- Smith, 55, from the Bronx, only gave praise to New York guard Jalen Brunson
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Stephen A. Smith has made an emotional plea for the New York Knicks to make some key offseasons moves in the aftermath of the team’s second round exit to the Miami Heat in the NBA playoffs, begging for star player Julius Randle to be traded for the Portland Trailblazers’ franchise player, Damian Lillard.
The ESPN basketball analyst was on the verge of tears after the Knicks lost to Jimmy Butler and Co. in Miami on Friday night and didn’t hold back on several players in orange and blue.
‘I needed a few minutes. Season’s over. Destiny and I always knew that the New York Knicks would lose,’ said a 55-year-old defeated Smith, a Bronx-native, before blasting Knicks’ head, Tom Thibodeau. ‘Team can’t shoot but you only play Evan Fournier in 27 games this season. Don’t give him a second of time in the playoffs.
‘[Quentin] Grimes air ball at the end of the game… Jalen Brunson, spectacular… 41 points. But he was the only one who showed up!
‘RJ Barrett… 1 of 10 shooting from the field! Really?! Really?! And you’ve got the nerve to be sensitive about criticism…’
Stephen A. Smith was on the verge of tears after the Knicks were defeated by the Miami Heat
Smith, of ESPN, wants the Knicks to go all in for 32-year-old, seven-time All-Star Damian Lillard
Smith, who’s from the Bronx, didn’t hold back in his assessment of Julius Randle in the playoffs
Virtually criticizing most Knicks starters on the night, bar center Mitchell Robinson, there was one player in particular, who couldn’t hide from Smith’s wrath. And that was star forward and the team’s second-option, Julius Randle.
‘Julius Randle… Julius Randle… Julius Randle… 3 of 14… once again playoffs arrived, once again you fold.
‘It’s time to trade for Julius Randle,’ Smith further said with emphasis. ‘It’s time for him to go. I want Damian Lillard. I don’t care what you gotta do to get him. I want Damian Lillard.
Indeed, as Smith pointed out, Jalen Brunson was once again on fire for New York when he needed to be relied on the most, scoring on 14-for-22 shooting. But his teammates combined for only 51 points – Julius Randle had 15 and RJ Barrett 11, only converting one shot all game. Josh Hart added 11 points off the Knicks bench.
‘Congratulations to the Heat, to the organization, to the coaching staff, [Erik Spoelstra] and Pat Riley and all their players,’ Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. ‘They played tough in this series and hats off to them. But I’m proud of our guys. There’s always disappointment in the end of the season and in the end, there’ll be one team standing. […] Proud of the way this team worked all year.’
The only player who didn’t face Smith’s wrath: Jalen Brunson, who scored 41 points on Friday
Brunson had 22 points in the first half, tying his third-most before intermission in any game this season – and his most ever by halftime of a playoff game. He had 15 in the first quarter when the Knicks came out flying to grab early control.
‘Just got to give them a lot of credit. They didn’t play like an 8 seed – at all,’ Brunson said, referring to the Heat reaching the playoff through the play-in tournament after finishing as the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed ahead of the postseason. ‘They were unbelievable. The utmost respect for them and that organization. I liked the way we fought.’
It remains to be seen whether the Knicks front office will want to give up any of its assets for Lillard, a seven-time All Star, whose nicknamed ‘Dame Time’ for his history of making big shots in the clutch.
Lillard, who 32.2 points in 36.3 minutes played per game this season, was honored as one of the NBA’s greatest players of all time by being name to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team.
He reached the Western Conference Finals in 2019 against the Golden State Warriors – the eventual NBA champions – averaging 34.3 points and 10.2 assists per game, arguably the most-accomplishing season in his career.