Knicks' Julius Randle calls Nets' Kevin Durant NBA's 'best player'

·2 min read
Julius Randle guards Kevin Durant 1/13/21 cropped
Julius Randle guards Kevin Durant 1/13/21 cropped

When asked Monday if Kevin Durant is the NBA's most difficult player to guard, Julius Randle took things a step further.

"Yeah," Randle said. "He's the best player in the league, for sure."

Ahead of a 7:30 p.m. game between the Knicks (11-9) and Nets (14-6) Tuesday at Barclays Center, Randle put Durant's ability into perspective.

"You ever seen a 7-footer that skilled?" Randle said. "Do anything, everything on the court? No weakness? Yeah, that's him. He's tough. A great player, but I love competing against him."

After missing the 2019-20 campaign in Brooklyn with a torn right Achilles, Durant did not miss a beat the following season. Durant has shown no signs of slowing down either -- through 19 games in 2021-22, his 15th year as an NBA player -- he averages 28.6 points, tied alongside the Golden State Warriors' Steph Curry atop the league, on a 54.8% shooting clip.

"I mean, he's just KD," Randle said. "He's skilled. I think it's different with him because, I mean, he's obviously an extremely explosive athlete. He's fast and quick, but he's been so skilled for so long that I think his game is way more relied on skill than athleticism and all that type of stuff -- smart and skills. So he's relying on that more than anything.

"And like the ACL injuries, the Achilles injuries -- now, people come back from that and they're fine and able to recover and play. It's not a career-ending thing. So I never wish that on anybody, but even when it happened to him, I felt like he was going to be fine."

Without Kyrie Irving (COVID-19 protocols), Durant has guided the Nets to an early Eastern Conference lead. Randle respects what Durant and Brooklyn have done while embracing a chance to compete with the best.

"Well, Kyrie's another one that's really, really good -- like, probably haven't seen a player like him in the league before," Randle said of Durant during Irving's absence. "So (Irving) offers like a whole other dynamic to their team. But what I've seen is KD's been playing great.

"James (Harden) has been the point guard, kind of steering the ship, and all the other guys have been contributing nicely and filling in their job and doing their role. So it seems like they're playing well, but I think we'll be up for the challenge."

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