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Julius Randle learned the hard way to respect Nikola Jokic

Like so many others, Julius Randle underestimated Nikola Jokic.

Then, like so many others, he was cooked by “The Joker.”

“I remember my second year we had played against him and he was killing,” Randle said on the ‘Podcast P’ with host and fellow NBA All-Star Paul George. “I’m like, ‘Man, why is this dude killing, bro? He’s slow and fat.’ Like, ‘He ain’t nice like that.’

“This is in my head. He hit like 25 [points]. I’m like, ‘Man, how the hell this happened, bro?’”

Randle and Jokic were both in the 2014 draft class, but only one was considered a worthwhile prospect. The other — Jokic — was selected 41st overall as a Taco Bell commercial was shown on the ESPN draft broadcast.

“Nobody knew who Joker was,” said Randle, who was taken seventh overall by the Lakers. “That wasn’t even a thought.

“There’s always that stigma around [European players].”

Fast forward nine years and Jokic is the reigning NBA Finals MVP for the Nuggets, having set the standard for the new-age NBA center.

“It’ll be Jokic,” Randle, the Knicks power forward, said. “They’re not many players like Jokic. But that’s what it’s going to turn into. Every position has become more skilled, able to do more things.”

Jokic is at the forefront of an international takeover in the NBA. Arguably the league’s four best players — Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid and Luka Doncic — are from outside the U.S.

The expected No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft is a Frenchman, Victor Wembanyama, who is being hailed as a generational talent.

The circumstances prompted George — an Olympic gold medalist with the U.S. — to concede the European youth system is better at grooming pros.

“I think we got an advantage in terms of us getting to play against top tier talent from an athletic standpoint. I think our talent is better than their talent over there,” George said. “But they’re introduced to the game and like you said, playing against the older group, like they’re playing the older group as well at a young age. So that definitely got something to do with their development.”

Randle, who went from taking 36 3-point attempts in his second season to 636 during this last campaign, said the NBA style already looks more European.

“We done took their game and brought it over here,” Randle said. “Spread the court, high pick-and-roll. The spacing, the movement, the concepts, all of that.”

Denver’s title provided not only validation for Jokic, but motivation for Randle. It was the culmination of continuity for the Nuggets, who’ve had the same coach and core duo for several years and through previous playoff failures.

The Knicks are coming off their first playoff series in a decade.

“From a team standpoint, I would have to say it just shows you how balanced the league is to where we realize, just keep getting better — we’re not that far off,” Randle said. ”And that’s motivating for me in a sense. … I look at Denver and I’m like ‘Alright what are they doing as a team to help them have such great chemistry on the court to win? I look at it from that standpoint.”

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Source: Berkshire mont

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