Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau gives struggling RJ Barrett a piece of advice

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks
Nov 15, 2022; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett (9) tries to get past Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson (00) and to the basket during the third quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

RJ Barrett, the anointed face of the franchise after the New York Knicks missed on Donovan Mitchell, must be feeling the pressure to measure up to his new $120 million contract.

Barrett is in a slump once again.

Since his 30-point game anchored on 10-of-17 shooting against the lowly Detroit Pistons, the 22-year-old Barrett shot a horrible 26.3 percent from the field over the Knicks’ last five games. That includes an abysmal 2 of 25 from the outside.

A season-low four points and a fourth-quarter benching in their last home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder triggered the slump. It spilled over into this daunting West Coast trip where a mysterious virus plagued the Knicks’ locker room.

But even with or without illness, Barrett has been a step slow on both ends of the floor to start the season. Already in his fourth year, Barrett still can’t shake off the slow starts that plagued his career.

On Sunday afternoon in Phoenix, Barrett’s offense was barren as the desert. He only had a dozen points on 11 shots in 27 minutes. But that was not even the worst part. He was the worst Knicks player on the floor, registering a lowly 92.6 offensive rating while the team was gearing towards giving up 139.6 points per 100 possessions — a staggering minus-47.0 net rating.

“The big thing is, I think a couple easy baskets can get him going whether it’s moving off the ball, screening, cutting, slipping, running the floor. That that sort of thing. Oftentimes, you go through ups and downs in this game, and just work your way through it and [make] hustle plays. Oftentimes, [with] a couple of hustle plays couple and easy baskets and all of a sudden you start feeling good and it’s a big difference. So just keep working.”

Tom Thibodeau postgame via MSG Network

The Knicks went all-in on Barrett this summer, which hasn’t been paying off yet. After signing the richest deal in franchise history, Barrett spoke about becoming a man. So far, he’s regressed to a bricklayer kid.

With the addition of Jalen Brunson, another scorer who can command the defense, the expectation is Barrett’s efficiency will improve. But the opposite is happening. His current 39.1 percent shooting percentage is the lowest in his career.

Even if the $120 million contract pales compared to what his fellow prominent 2019 Draft classmates have received, his worsening play isn’t a good look.

Time is still on his side. But the league moves fast. He needs to shape up, or he’ll find himself not just trying to shake off slow starts but the dreaded label of being a bust.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo