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Julius Randle on track for All-Star season while Tyler Herro battles neck injury

Randle’s Knicks have gotten out to a strong start while Herro and Bam Adebayo’s Heat have struggled.

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NBA: Utah Jazz at New York Knicks Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks may be the most surprising team in the NBA right now. As crazy as it sounds, they’re in playoff contention at 8-9. In a weaker conference, they could seriously make a run for their first playoff berth since 2013.

They’ve found success behind the drastically improved play of forward Julius Randle. While the talent has always been there for the former No. 2 overall pick, Randle’s stepped his game up tremendously this season.

This offseason, Randle, according to The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov, took his conditioning to the next level, running a mile in 5 minutes and 30 seconds with no shoes. Setting his sights on an All-Star appearance, Randle’s improvements have been notable. It also helped that the Knicks landed former Kentucky assistant Kenny Payne, who’s bee instrumental in preparing guys like Randle for the NBA during their brief careers in Lexington.

Randle is averaging 22.6 points per game, a career-high. That’s not even the best part. The two places where he’s really found success this season have been shooting from deep and rebounding. He’s knocking down a career-high 1.4 threes per game and, for the second time in his career, averaging a double-double with 11.6 boards per game.

Coming into his own as a player, Randle should be able to accomplish his offseason mission, and hopefully, he’ll help lead the Knicks back to relevance in doing so.

As for another Wildcat, Tyler Herro, who made postseason history as a rookie last year, will miss at least one more game, per Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. A lottery pick a year ago, Herro has missed the last five games.

The Heat have struggled, losing seven of their last 11 games. They’re currently out of playoff position, but with still the majority of the season remaining, the time is still there for the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Miami lost to Los Angeles in the 2020 NBA Finals and will have aspirations of getting back there. Averaging 17.6 points per game, Herro will be a big reason why they find success, so getting him to return should be a huge boost for the Heat.