Knicks: RJ Barrett not too worried about shooting funk

new york knicks, rj barrett

New York Knicks’ third-year wing RJ Barrett returned on Saturday after a non-Covid illness caused him to miss his first game over the last two seasons. But he also returned to his shooting slump that hastened their ugly loss to the Denver Nuggets.

Barrett shot just 38.5 percent from the field, including a horrendous 1 of 7 from downtown. Over his last 15 games, Barrett had only two games when he shot above 40 percent of his 3s. Both games ended in Knicks’ victories — a 3-of-7 outing against the Indiana Pacers and the 3-of-5 performance against the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his last 16 games in which the Knicks went 6-10, Barrett’s three-point shooting hit rock-bottom at a 23.9 percent clip. His 38.2 percent three-point shooting mark to start the season that crescendoed in New Orleans, where he hit 6 of 8 triples, capping a fiery Knicks’ 5-1 start, became an afterthought.

“No idea,” Barrett said Saturday of his recent shooting slump. “I think [that usually happens], especially at the beginning of the year, when a team is trying to figure itself out and also figuring out the shots that I’m going to get during the game with this team with new players, and I think I’ve kind of figured that out now.

His three-point shot diet increased this season despite the addition of the now-banished Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. In his first 23 games last season, Barrett only attempted an average of 3.8 3s compared to 4.9 per game this season.

Looking at his three-point shot chart, Barrett’s weak spots are the top of the key (3 of 15) and the right corner (2 of 14). He is within the league average (39%) from the left corner (9 of 23). His 13 of 41 3s from the left elbow is near the league average (34.7%). He is most lethal from the right elbow as he made 8 of 20 3s that is well above the league average (32.9%).

Knicks RJ Barrett 3-pt shooting
courtesy of Stat Muse

Barrett and his trainer Drew Hanlen worked on the Knicks wing’s off-the-bounce game this past summer. But so far, it hasn’t translated yet in his three-point accuracy.

According to the NBA’s tracking stats data, Barrett is hitting only 24 percent clip from 1.3 pullup 3s attempts per game this season. Last season, Barrett attempted only 0.3 of that type of shot per game, and he was 30 percent accurate.

His accuracy from catch-and-shoot 3s this season (1.3 of 3.8) is nearly identical to last season (1.6 of 4.0).

New York coach Tom Thibodeau, who was effusive in praising Barrett’s work ethic until Saturday’s loss, had a more revealing and interesting view about his ward’s shooting funk.

“A couple of things — it’s similar to last year,” Thibodeau said. “I have a lot of confidence in him being able to work his way out of it. When you throw in, he’s been sick, and to me, you get rhythm when you work.”

“Last year, he got going when he started coming in every night to shoot. So there’s no notion that ‘okay, I do it sometimes.’ No, you got to do it all the time.”

Last season, Barrett ended up shooting 40.1 percent from deep after also enduring an early-season slump when he missed 21 straight three-pointers over a four-game stretch.

“So get back in the gym, get back to grooving your shot. Shoot a lot of 3s, and you’ll start making more,” Thibodeau implored.

But Barrett doesn’t need Thibodeau to tell him to get back to his nightly routine because that was always his plan after his recent bout with the non-Covid illness that made him throw up in their loss in Brooklyn last week. Barrett had to shut down for two days. After Saturday’s matinee, Barrett said that the illness was completely gone, and he was ready to return to his routine.

“Go back to the basics, which you know works,” said Barrett on how he plans to attack his shooting funk. “After that, everything will figure itself out.”

Barrett is confident, too, that he’ll work his way out of this another shooting slump.

“I’ve just been working on the shots that I know I’m going to get. I’ve been in shooting funks before. I’m not really too worried about it,” Barrett said.

Barrett is more concerned with the whole team figuring out their defense.

“We just gotta fight, bro. At the end of the day, all the X’s and O’s don’t matter,” he said.

“If we’re gonna play defense, we gotta fight and fight together the whole game and just do whatever it takes to win.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Amid trade rumors, Knicks’ RJ Barrett plays unselfish in Canada’s rout of China

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.

“Last time we made the Olympics, my dad was wearing 9, and now I’m wearing it,” Barrett said. “It feels right.”

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 haven’t been home in a while,” Barrett said. “This, with Canada on your chest, there’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.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo