Over time, RJ Barrett could possibly be an intriguing case research in fan conduct on this market. He’s a tough employee and sturdy employee, and New Yorkers love nothing greater than onerous and sturdy employees. Barrett additionally carries himself with a complicated maturity that means he can be a mannequin consultant of the Knicks for so long as they make use of him.
What’s to not like a couple of homegrown participant aspiring to be a Knicks lifer who helps finish a championship drought that has lined half a century?
Good query. Right here’s a greater one:
How will the followers reply if the 22-year-old Barrett by no means ascends to the extent of stardom that the Knicks have been banking on once they drafted him third total in 2019, and once they gave him $120 million this summer time, somewhat than a one-way ticket to Salt Lake Metropolis in a deal for Donovan Mitchell?
That’s to be decided. As for Friday night time, Barrett’s crew provided up a comparatively uninspiring 121-112 victory over a rail-thin Pistons crew that was enjoying with out Cade Cunningham. Of their twelfth sport of the season, the Knicks put within the requisite work to get again to .500, no extra. It’s the least they might do after their no-show on the Nets on Wednesday.
However Barrett led all scorers with 30 factors, together with 20 within the first half, and he impressed Jalen Brunson, former teammate of the otherworldly Luka Doncic, to say the next about Barrett’s bid to change into an elite participant: “I feel he might be an All-Star. I feel he is usually a very impactful participant, I feel he can lead a franchise, and that’s what he was picked right here to do. He can do it. I’ve the utmost religion in him. He works very onerous. He has a fantastic demeanor about how he performs. You by no means see when he’s annoyed, you by no means see when he’s having the sport of his life. … It exhibits he’s not afraid of the second, not afraid of something. He’s able to doing a variety of huge issues.”
RJ Barrett is approaching a pivotal Knicks crossroads. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Publish
Brunson was good for 26 factors, seven assists, 4 steals and no turnovers, and but that endorsement was his most precious contribution of the night time.
To this point this season, the Knicks have been given a sequence of chilly reminders in regards to the necessity of high-end expertise. Ja Morant. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Mitchell. Dejounte Murray. Jaylen Brown. Kevin Durant. These are the lads most liable for the Knicks’ half-dozen defeats up to now, and coach Tom Thibodeau simply doesn’t have that form of firepower to lean on.
If you wish to quibble with the inclusion of Brown on this group, effectively, he’s an All-Star who has averaged between 20 and 25 factors the final 4 seasons, and who blitzed the Knicks on the Backyard for 30, and who has a teammate (Jayson Tatum) far superior to anybody on Thibodeau’s facet.
If you wish to quibble with the inclusion of Murray on this group, effectively, he’s an All-Star who stands among the many league’s greatest defenders, and who blitzed the Knicks on the Backyard for 36 factors, 9 assists and 5 steals, and in addition has a teammate (Trae Younger) far superior to anybody on Thibodeau’s facet.
Knicks president Leon Rose might have traded for Murray within the offseason, however he didn’t. He additionally might have traded for Mitchell within the offseason, however didn’t, earlier than the Jazz despatched Westchester County’s most interesting to the Cavaliers, who beat these Knicks through Mitchell’s 38 factors and 12 assists.
RJ Barrett scores through the Knicks’ win over the Pistons. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Publish
The excellent news? Rose stored all these first-round picks he has over the subsequent 5 drafts to probably use in a future deal for a franchise participant.
The unhealthy information? The Knicks have a troubling historical past of clearing the decks for megastar recruits who by no means signal on the dotted line.
Thibodeau badly wished the Mitchell deal finished, and was deflated when it wasn’t. Within the early hours of his Knicks tenure, he made his emotions on buying star energy clear when he mentioned the entrance workplace “must be very aggressive in in search of out these alternatives. They only don’t occur by chance. You need to make them occur.”
No one is aware of if Rose could make it occur. The reality is, the league’s absolute best out there gamers haven’t signed up with the Knicks up to now as a result of they didn’t have a Donovan Mitchell on their roster. You want stars to lure even larger stars, and Julius Randle, Brunson, and Barrett don’t fairly reduce it as inducements.
Until Barrett explodes in a approach that appears unlikely. Friday night time, Thibodeau mentioned his fourth-year wing is attacking the basket like by no means earlier than. Barrett confirmed that method would be the centerpiece of his try and take a giant leap ahead. So be it.
After he agreed to his four-year, $120-million deal in late summer time, Barrett mentioned: “I really feel honored and blessed. This can be a place I wished to be.”
Knicks followers wished him again, too. They know a real professional once they see one. It’s a wholesome working relationship proper now, but it’s one value watching if Barrett stays a superb participant, however by no means develops into a fantastic one.