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Julius Randle’s true thoughts on his MVP candidacy amid Knicks’ surge

Julius Randle, Knicks

New York Knicks forward Julius Randle may still be an underdog against Nikola Jokic to win MVP, but that doesn’t mean the big man is going to shy away from talking about the increasingly heated race for the highly coveted award.

Per Marc Berman of the New York Post, ahead of the Knicks’ matchup against Jokic and the Denver Nuggets, Randle was blunt that while the limelight doesn’t bother him, he also isn’t all that focused on winning the award.

“For sure, I’m not going to shy away from it,” Julius Randle said. “For me, it’s about getting better from game to game, improving as a player. I’m not focused on it. The praise obviously is great and everything but I’m not focused on it. All I’m worried about is getting better, keep leading the team game to game. Our team, I feel like we can compete against anybody.”

Less than 12 months after signing what was considered a team-friendly contract extension worth $62 million over three years, Randle has not only established himself as one of the most versatile forwards in the league. He has also elevated the Knicks back to the postseason picture for the first time since 2014.

With a stat line of 24.2 points, 10.3 rebounds and 5.9 assists–along with a 20.3 PER–the big man has become a prohibitive favorite to win the Most Improved Player award at the end of the year and has recently inserted himself into the race for MVP along with Jokic, who has led the field for much of the season.

Even if he fails to catch Denver’s interior stalwart, Randle’s transformation into the franchise cornerstone is a remarkable story considering the injury woes and inconsistency he battled at the start of his career.

While the Knicks big man may not be paying attention to the MVP race, Jokic might want to look in his rear-view mirror because Randle is hot on his trail.