As trade rumors swirl around, New York Knicks‘ swingman RJ Barrett continues to help Canada in its quest to return to the Olympics since his father, Rowan, and his godfather, Steve Nash, starred for the Canadian side in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
â€œLast time we made the Olympics, my dad was wearing 9, and now Iâ€™m wearing it,â€ Barrett said. â€œIt feels right.â€
Canada moved two wins away from its mission after pummeling China, 109-79, Wednesday night to sweep the group stage in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament right on their home soil in Victoria, B.C.
“I havenâ€™t been home in a while,” Barrett said. “This, with Canada on your chest, thereâ€™s no other feeling like it.”
A couple of hours before tip-off, there’s a report coming out from New York that the Knicks are interested in packaging Barrett in a potential deal for a star like Damian Lillard or Bradley Beal.
Barrett brushed that off aside and proceeded to spearhead Canada’s balanced attack.
Against China’s tall frontline anchored by former NBA player, 7-foot-1 Zhou Qi, Barrett’s shots were not falling inside. He shot 3-of-10 from the field in the opening half but still managed to squeeze in 10 points to lead Canada’s offense. With his attacks to the rim hotly contested, Barrett helped spread up the offense with three assists.
Canada opened up a double-digit lead it never relinquished.
Barrett finished the game with 16 points behind Andrew Wiggins’ 20 points. But he dished out five of Canada’s 30 assists in a display of unselfish plays that will be key in clinching a spot in the Tokyo Olympics next month.
He was tied with backup point guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker for the second-most assists in the game behind their starting playmaker Cory Joseph who issued seven.
More importantly, Barrett found his range from the outside, hitting 3-of-7 after going 1-for-6 in their close win against Greece in the opener.
The 21-year old Barrett is now averaging 19.0 points behind Wiggin’s 21.5-point average and is also the team’s second-best playmaker with a 4.0-assists average tied with Alexander-Walker. Joseph’s 6.5-assists average leads the team.
Aside from his quest to bring Canada back to the Olympics, Barrett is using this tournament to stay sharp for the grind ahead. He plans to link up with his trainer Drew Hanlen, who also trains Beal, later in the summer. And their goal is to add a three-point shot off the dribble and on the move after he’s become a better catch-and-shoot player this season.
Trade or no trade, Barrett is sticking to his schedule and path to NBA stardom.
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