New York Knicks’ RJ Barrett will use All-Rookie Team snub as motivation

New York Knicks, RJ Barrett
Oct 7, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett (9) reacts after making a basket during the second half against the Washington Wizards at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks‘ incoming sophomore RJ Barrett won’t take the All-Rookie Team snub sitting down.

Last year’s third overall pick, Barrett said he would use that as extra motivation coming into the new season.

“It bothered me a lot. I’m not gonna lie,” Barrett told reporters after the first day of training camp.

“It bothered me a lot. I really don’t understand why I wasn’t on it. But you know, it’s a motivation for next season. It’s good to have that extra chip on your shoulder and just prove myself even more,” he added.

The 6-foot-7 Barrett averaged 14.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.6 assists in 30.4 minutes per game during his rookie season. But what the 100 voters — composed of the league’s broadcasters, TV/radio analysts, and print journalists — saw was his shooting struggles. He shot only 40.2 percent from the field and 32 percent from 3-point range. His poor free-throw shooting from college continued to hound him in the NBA (61.4 percent).

He acknowledged those perceived weaknesses and tried to address them during the long break.

“I worked on my shooting, especially in the free-throw line. I started off really bad and that’s what kind of got me to a percentage that I had. Over the course of the year, it wasn’t terrible except only the first two months. I’m actually encouraged to know that,” Barrett said.

“I kind of started at a really low point so that the only way is to go up. I’m not really worried about that stuff at all.”

March Madness

Before the pandemic shut the league down, Barrett was playing the best stretch of his rookie season. In six games in March, the Canadian wingman averaged 18.7 points on 44.8 percent shooting from the field. He shot 33.3 percent of his threes and was a respectable 75.8 percent from the free-throw line.

He was also moving the ball better, averaging 3.3 assists on top of 4.5 rebounds and 1.7 steals.

Barrett hopes to pick up from where he left off.

“It’s really frustrating [when the global pandemic shut the NBA]. I came off from an ankle injury. When I came back in March, I really picked it up and I was playing really well, some of my best basketball of the season. I felt like I was really figuring it out and was afraid it just kind of stopped,” Barrett said.

But the 20-year old former Duke standout saw the silver lining.

“It’s kind of frustrating but also a blessing that I came back fully healthy. I was really playing on one ankle. I came back fully healthy and was able to work on my game the whole summer. I know I’ve gotten better and it should be going better next year,” he said.

Shooting for All-Star

Over the course of the long break, Barrett linked up with renowned NBA Skills trainer Drew Hanlen to improve his shot mechanics.

The Knicks hope that with new assistant coach Johnnie Bryant, Barrett will be able to unlock his potential. Bryant was credited for helping Gordon Hayward and Donovan Mitchell reach All-Star level in Utah.

“I’ve been working with JB (Bryant) every day. He’s pushing me to get better. I’ve known Kenny Payne since I was young when he was recruiting me. Working with those guys has been amazing,” Barrett said.

“I feel like I made a lot of strides. It’s such a long time to get better and study films. I’m really happy with where my game is right now,” he added.

Barrett will have the chance to showcase his much-improved game when the Knicks travel to Detroit and play the Pistons on a back-to-back schedule on Dec. 11 and 13 at the beginning of the NBA preseason games.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo