Knicks News: Coaches, scouts rave about RJ Barrett’s incredible growth

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Without second-year player RJ Barrett, the New York Knicks would be struggling in some categories. Of course, All-Star Julius Randle has led their team to success this season, and Barrett has fed off of that production and efficiency. However, Barrett has taken massive strides forward in his point production, increasing from 14.3 in 2019 to 17.7 to the 2020–21 season.

In addition, he’s averaging more steals per game, rebounds per game, and his free-throw percentage has ballooned to .745. He’s shooting .445 from the field and nearly .400 from three-point land, indicating an increase in efficiency with his shooting.

“His shooting,” Charlotte Hornets coach James Borrego said raved about RJ Barrett, according to ESPN. “You can start there. Just the ability to shoot the ball now. He looks a lot more comfortable, more confident in his shot. He’s made a lot more plays. I think his playmaking has really taken a step there — and a lot of that comes out of your confidence in shooting the ball.”

“I think players in general, when they can shoot the ball and they can get downhill, they get much more comfortable making plays off the bounce and making plays for other people.”

Barrett has quickly put himself in conversation to be the next star in the NBA, but he does have some weaknesses that need to be refined if he wants to take that next step forward. The Knicks will be looking to add another big-time player next summer in free agency, but they may already have a budding one on the roster to help push the steam forward and hopefully compete for a championship in the next few years.

One scout was a bit more critical of Barrett’s game, indicating that he’s not a star-level player and more of a complementary option. While I disagree with that narrative, he has certainly benefited from the rise of Randle and complimented him very nicely.

“I don’t view him as a franchise or star-level player,” a Western Conference executive said. “I think he’s a complementary scorer and bucket-getter. His shooting has helped his efficiency, but he still plays a lot off the bounce and hasn’t proven able to make those shots.

RJ has an opportunity to squash this narrative, as the Knicks have two competitive matchups against the LA Clippers and Lakers over the next few days. Stellar performances from Barrett might quiet the haters, as they desperately need him to rise to the occasion and help extract a few victories on this tough road stretch.

 

Knicks’ Julius Randle blasts Jae Crowder for trash-talk comments

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The New York Knicks are in the middle of a tough West Coast trip right now, having lost their last two games of the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns. They are preparing to take on the LA Clippers and the Lakers in the coming days, but the Knicks must find a way to forget about their most recent games, especially a hostile and aggressive loss to Phoenix on Friday evening.

The Knicks held a commanding lead in the third quarter but allowed Phoenix to make a comeback and emerge victorious, being outscored 38-17 in the fourth. While Julius Randle scored 24 points and shot 50% from the field, their three-point percentage was degraded compared to recent games. The squad finished with a 34.4% success rate from beyond the arc, while the Suns hit on 43.9% of their attempts. They desperately missed rookie Immanuel Quickley and Alec Burks in that category, as the seven additional three-point shots the Suns hit were just about the difference in score at the end of the game.

However, this game got a bit zesty at times, especially with Randle and Suns power forward Jae Crowder, who got tangled up at the bottom of the basket at one point. Randle is known for having a hot-head at times and occasionally lashes out at players or even referees for inadequate calls and actions. Both Randle and Crowder got in each other’s faces, proceeding to clash, landing Julius a technical foul.

After the game, Julius had select words for Crowder, stating his frustration and how Crowder handles his trash talking.

Per Stefan Bondy:

“He’s [Jae Crowder] just a frontrunner. He didn’t say a word in the first half. They were down and they tied the game up and he got a stop on me and wanted to say something. That’s just who he is. Everybody in the league knows it. But I’m not worried about him.”

At the end of the day, Crowder has helped Phoenix become one of the toughest teams in the Western Conference, and he has played a big part in their success this season. While his actions can be a bit abrasive, Randle needs to temper his reactions and ignore the trash talk. The postseason will only be worse and more intense.

The Knicks face 2 polarizing options as they lose composure at pinnacle of season

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The New York Knicks are crumbling at the worst possible time as they look to close out the 2021 season on a high note. Still sitting in the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference, New York has dropped their last two games to the Denver Nuggets and Phoenix Suns, but their latest defeat was a complete demise of work ethic and expectations.

The Knicks have been competitive against all levels of teams this season, but what happened against Phoenix was unprecedented and, quite frankly, unexpected. New York allowed 128 points, allowing Phoenix to take a significant lead in the fourth quarter.

The contest had flares of energy and hostility, as center, Taj Gibson targeted Chris Paul at one point, providing a healthy body check that sent Paul sprawling to the floor. This was a major sign of frustration for a team that gave up a seven-point lead in the third quarter, being outscored in the 38-17.

In the loss, the starting five for the Knicks struggled in various categories. While All-Star Julius Randle record 24 points and 11 rebounds, it was clear that the team missed Alec Berks and Immanuel Quickley, who offer offense and the ability to end a scoring streak for their opponents.

Tom Thibodeau and his squad allowed seven players from Phoenix to reach double-digit points, with DeAndre Ayton leading the team with 26 and Paul contributing 17 over 30 minutes. It was a display of depth and starting talent — the Knicks now realize the challenge they are up against once they reach the postseason.

Just to hold their ground in the middle of the playoff standings, they need to walk away with a win against the Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers may offer the best opportunity, with LeBron James dealing with an ankle injury.

Nonetheless, the Knicks have to make a decision, and that is to remain resilient and aggressive with her mentality or crumble under the pressure of facing quality teams on a tough road trip. Ultimately, this is a challenge they will have to face mentally and physically in the postseason, so they have to push through and extract wins in the coming days.

Knicks cannot cheap out with Julius Randle as extension talks loom

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Julius Randle represents the most recent star to be a part of the New York Knicks organization, with the last player being Carmelo Anthony. Retaining Randle at all costs must be a priority, as the Knicks could be looking to extend him during the summer to ensure that he remains in New York for the foreseeable future.

Having earned his first All-Star appearance this year, averaging over 24 points, double-digit rebounds, and 5.9 assists, he has become indispensable. Without him, the Knicks would be nowhere close to a playoff-contending team, as they currently sit in the 4th seed in the Eastern conference, just slightly ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics.

The Knicks have a serious string of games coming up as they prepare to take on the Phoenix Suns, LA clippers, and Lakers consecutively. They will need Randle and his scoring efficiency to extract a few victories during this tough stretch, as they try to cement themselves in the 4th seed.

However, as Randle continues to dominate, the Knicks will have to make a serious decision on his future with the team since he only has one year left on his contract. President Leon Rose will undoubtedly pick up the final year of his deal, which will pay him $20.745 million in 2022.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the Knicks and Randle could be looking to host extension talks over the summer:

The sudden drop of an anticipated 2021 free-agent class has caused a ripple effect for the coming offseason — teams have turned their attention to extending their own 2022 free agents.

Randle is a prime example and, for the Knicks, has gone from a maybe to a must-have…

The Knicks can add up to four years to Randle’s contract, and both sides intend to talk over the summer to see if they can come to an agreement, sources said. But salary-cap rules limit the raise in Randle’s salary to a max of 20%.

The Knicks will have to come close to paying Randle an average of $30 million per season, while his average the past few years was just under $20 million. That is a massive increase for a player who has shown just one year of elite-level play. However, they feel confident he’s going to remain consistent since his work ethic and mentality have changed for the better, and head coach Tom Thibodeau has offered him better leadership.

From another perspective, the Knicks realistically can’t let him walk, so they don’t have much of a choice but to sign him as a 2021 free-agent class dwindles. Most players are staying with their respective squads or picking up their player options, so the market won’t be flush with elite-level talent like he was supposed to be.

Report: The New York Knicks are a life-long commitment to Julius Randle

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It takes resilience and grit to be a great player in New York, as the media and fans can be extremely hostile. The New York Knicks have been a floundering organization for years, and not even Carmelo Anthony to take them to a title in his prime. Great players come and go, and it has been quite some time since the Knicks were a destination for stars around the league.

However, the rise of Julius Randle has attracted attention from some of the best players in the NBA, and the Knicks have a fantastic opportunity next FA period to acquire a star to pair with their leader.

This season, Julius has averaged 24.1 points, 5.9 assists, and 10.2 rebounds, all career highs. He is shooting .461 from the field and .420 from beyond the arc, almost 50% better than his previous success rate.

The development of Julius has been one of the best stories of the season, and he’s made a transformation that nobody expected. Knick fans were ready to write him off this year and trade him at the deadline, but he has now become an indisposable factor that must be retained for the final year of his contract in 2022. Randle will account for $19.8 million and base salary next year, and if cut, the Knicks would only have to pay four million in dead money. However, they simply can’t afford to let Randle walk, as he represents the catalyst behind their success.

Randle insists that he wants to be part of something special from the ground up, which is exactly what the Knicks have done this year with new head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“I want to be a part of building something from the ground up. There’s no better place than New York to do it, no better organization or fan base that’s hungrier … than here in New York,” Randle said on The Woj Pod. “I want to be a part of that, honestly, for the rest of my career. I wanted to be one of the greats here … I don’t think there would be any better place to win other than here.”

The 26-year-old All-Star’s influence hasn’t only seen his statistics increase, but he has helped rejuvenate and develop some of the Knicks’ other players.

RJ Barrett has seen a major increase in production and efficiency this season with Randle by his side, and point guard Derrick Rose has turned back the clock and looked vintage at times. Thibodeau understands what he has in Julius — when he plays well, the team mirrors.

“That’s what you want from your best players … bringing out the best in his teammates,” said Thibodeau, who has been praising Randle for months. “And he’s doing it in every different aspect of the game, from the way he’s shooting the ball, the way he starts games, the playmaking, the defense, and just the way he works every day. You couldn’t ask for anything more. He’s having a terrific season and we want him to continue to grow and that’s what I love about him. He’s never satisfied — he wants to keep getting better.”

Ideally, New York will retain Randle and add another superstar to pair with him. They already have an extremely deep bench with Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin adapting to the NBA level. They should attempt to retain Rose and Nerlens Noel, as they will also have Mitchell Robinson available next year on the final year of his rookie deal.

Could Knicks’ fresh signing be the catalyst for their playoff push?

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The New York Knicks were absolutely demolished by the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday evening, losing by 16 points but trailing the entire contest. Denver managed to lock down first-time All-Star Julius Randle, limiting him to just 14 points and forcing five turnovers. His partner in crime, RJ Barrett, started the game 0-for-8 and struggled tremendously in the first half before hitting a string of three-pointers to bring some life to the squad. However, it was too late, and the Knicks’ failed attempt at fighting back presents a difficult challenge ahead.

New York is preparing to take on the Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, and Lakers consecutively, a deathly string of opponents that could see them lose multiple games in a row. If they can extract a victory in the coming days against one of these premier teams, they will be in good shape, and considering the Atlanta Hawks just demolished Phoenix by 32 points, the Knicks undoubtedly have the talent to get it done.

Reinforcements on the way for the Knicks:

President Leon Rose and upper management recently signed Luca Vildoza out of the Spanish League to help fuel their point guard position. As a 6’3″ guard, Vildoza is just 25 years old and averaging 10.1 points, 3.4 assists, and 2.0 total rebounds for Baskonia. He’s connecting on .410 of his shots from the field and .376 from beyond the arc.

Vildoza represents a hard-nosed talent with quality passing attributes and scoring prowess. The Knicks believe he can help them in the postseason, and even sooner than that as they try to finish off the season strong. Luca is currently going through immigration and COVID-19 protocols, but once he is prepared to take the court, the Knicks could use him in live-action.

However, that presents a question, who will he be stealing minutes from?

I project that the Knicks will continue to decrease the minutes of Elfrid Payton, despite putting together a strong performance at times against Denver in the blowout loss. Derrick Rose simply means too much to the squad, and Immanuel Quickley represents instant offense off the bench. Vildoza can play aggressive defense while also offering height and shooting abilities, something that Payton struggles with.

Nonetheless, the Argentinian international gave the Knicks an excuse to take the expressway to free agency, and hopefully, he can have an impact with the season winding to an end.

The Knicks now face their most difficult test of the 202-21 season

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The New York Knicks saw their winning streak come to an end with a bang as the Denver Nuggets dominated them on Wednesday evening. Losing by 16 points, Denver had the lead for the entire contest, thanks to Nikola Jokic posting 32 points, showcasing his MVP caliber season. In fact, Jokic was pulled in the fourth quarter for rest purposes, as Denver sent out their 2nd team to finish off a struggling Knicks squad.

This was an anomaly for New York, who experienced their last loss against the Phoenix Suns, who they will go to battle with on Friday evening.

This defeat was a wake-up call for Tom Thibodeau and his team, who have steamrolled worse squads over the past few weeks, but this blowout loss represents a tremendous challenge internally.

To be considered one of the best teams in the NBA, you must be able to accept defeat and come back with a fresh slate the next day. The Knicks must do whatever it takes to forget about this game, putting it in the past and moving forward with positivity. Phoenix is no joke, as they are also considered title contenders this year, but the Knicks have what it takes to compete and even win games against quality teams, as we’ve seen in the past.

However, when we look back at this loss to Denver, we see struggles in most categories, Denver did a fantastic job suffocating Julius Randle when he drove to the basket, finishing with just 14 points and turn the ball over five times. The Knicks turned the ball over 15 times in total, which is simply far too many against competitive teams that will take advantage.

It wasn’t a surprise to see Barrett struggling along with Randle, as both seem to work off one another. Barrett went 0-for08 before hitting a few three-point shots to raise his average. Altogether, the team was flat, and only Immanuel Quickley showed any sense of life, posting 18 points, with the majority coming in garbage time.

This West Coast trip will prove to be their most difficult challenge of the season, but internally, they must remain confident and motivated for the final stretch of the regular campaign. They must finish strong and head into the postseason with a full head of steam.

Knicks news: 3 keys to beating the Nuggets in Denver

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Let the games begin, the New York Knicks are scheduled to face off against the Denver Nuggets, who are currently locked into the fourth seed in the Western Conference on Wednesday evening. Denver is no pushover, as the Knicks prepare for a four-game stretch where they take on the Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, LA Clippers, and Los Angeles Lakers, all of which are in top-six seeds in the West.

This will be a true challenge for the Knicks, who have won 12 of their last 13 games but haven’t had any significant challenges, aside from Phoenix, who represents their only loss during that stretch. Nonetheless, New York is more than capable of hanging with these teams, as the Knicks should’ve beat Phoenix if not for Julius Randle struggling and Chris Paul working some magic at the end. Randle having inadequate games is an anomaly these days, having posted 28 points against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday and 31 points against Houston on Sunday.

Three keys to beating the Denver Nuggets for the Knicks:

1.) Defense, defense, defense

The main task for New York is to limit any given team defensively, using their aggressive and suffocating style of play.

The Knicks rank first in the NBA in points allowed per game, with just 104.6. In comparison to Denver, they are allowing an average of 109.9, which is a significant difference. However, Denver has three elite scorers on their team, including Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr., who are averaging 19+ points per game. However, Jamal Murray suffered a season-ending injury, so he won’t be available for Denver’s remainder of the season, giving the Knicks a slight advantage.

If the Knicks realistically want to walk away with a win, they are going to need to play elite defense, which we know they are capable of doing. As long as they can stop Denver from blowing this one open and scoring 120+ points, the Knicks will have a chance at keeping a close. The usual method for New York is late-game fatigue, which allows their opponents to turn on the afterburner’s and hit shots to pull away. The squad has done a much better job closing out games and playing solid defense, meaning they will need to continue that trend.

2.) Limit the big two

As stated before, stopping Jokic and Porter Jr. must be the priority. Jokic is averaging 26.3 points, 10.9 rebounds, and 8.5 assist as a center, which is absolutely mind-blowing. Porter has earned 18.9 points, 7.5 rebounds, and has turned the ball over just 1.2 times, showcasing his skills.

The Knicks have a great defense, but this team is capable of blowing out anybody with ease, and they are also enjoying a nice win streak of their own. They most recently fell to the Los Angeles Lakers but have won nine of their last 11 games.

3.) Julius Randle must play ELITE basketball

There’s one simple truth to New York, as long as Julius Randle is playing elite-level basketball, the rest of the team rallies around him. His co-star, RJ Barrett, turns up the notch when Randle is hitting shots consistently. It doesn’t seem like the first time All-Star is ready to slow down anytime soon, showing off impeccable stamina and consistency the past few months. In addition, veteran point guard Derrick Rose seems rejuvenated, even looking like his vintage self at times. Pairing Rose with Randle and Barrett has proved to be a nice trio.

Jeff Van Gundy warns Knicks about the struggles they face in the future

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The New York Knicks are currently riding a high that is unprecedented in the NBA. With the establishment of super teams, a moderately talented team like the Knicks shouldn’t be playing as well as they have been the past few weeks.

Having won 12 of their last 13 games and their latest two performances being fantastic, the Knicks are preparing to take on some of the league’s best opponents on the West Coast this week. It will provide them a quality test ahead of the postseason as the regular campaign dwindles to a close. They currently stand in the fourth seed, having locked in a playoff spot for the first time in years. They are 1.5 games ahead of the Atlanta Hawks and two games ahead of the Miami Heat. However, teams like the LA Clippers and Lakers present significant challenges and could easily derail this budding team full of youth and veteran talent.

Jeff Van Gundy, who helped teach Tom Thibodeau, had a few choice words for the Knicks, who undoubtedly have a tough road ahead.

“You can’t get any more out of a moderately talented team than Tom has,” Van Gundy said. “But you don’t win 60 games or go deep in the playoffs with a moderately talented team. So this is going to be all about the roster, and who you find, and who you pay from this group, and who you move on from.

We will see what this team is made of come the postseason, and rosters with more depth and starting talent turn on the afterburners. The Knicks have steamrolled average to below-average teams, which is expected from great squads, but their only loss of the past few weeks was against the Phoenix Suns, one of the best teams in the NBA.

They felt the wrath of Chris Paul toward the end, and they essentially took Julius Randle out of the contest and limited his production, which severely hurt the Knicks down the stretch. Better teams with quality defenses will do just that against them, meaning they will have to be consistent in all phases.

“A lot of these players are in the last year of their contracts. If you paid them all, would you get the same type of performance or better next year? That’s why, to me, the summer is the hard part.”

Van Gundy has a point, a lot of the current Knicks players are on the final year of their contracts, including Nerlens Noel, Derrick Rose, Alec Burks, and Elfrid Payton.

However, New York has plenty of money to spend next off-season, and while I imagine they will retain some of their key pieces, preferably Rose and Noel, they will also look to pair Randle with another star player. Luckily, they have a few youth players who are developing very nicely in Immanuel Quickley and RJ Barrett.

Knick’s Derrick Rose details his incredible relationship with Tom Thibodeau

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Sometimes all it takes is trust and faith in a player to maximize their potential, and that is exactly what head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks did with veteran point guard Derrick Rose. The Knicks desperately needed more point guard production this season before the trade deadline when they brought the veteran over from the Detroit Pistons. Nobody thought Rose would offer enough to supplement not having a star PG, but he has offered versatility and scoring production on a nightly basis.

Rose is in the final deal of a two-year, $15 million contract, and the Knicks might consider extending him after this campaign based on his statistics and leadership.

Rose is averaging 14.3 points, 4.1 assists, and is hitting .477% from the field and .400 from downtown, the highest mark in his entire career. His confidence seems to be sky-high, thanks to a fantastic relationship with Thibodeau, which he trusts and values.

“The only thing I can think of is trust,” the point guard static regarding his relationship with Thibs. “He knows how hard I fought to get back. He knows I’m a gym rat. He knows I’m a student of the game. He knows where my heart is at, and it’s vice versa. I know how much work he puts into his craft. I know how he preps before the game, and you’re seeing the results of it.”

The love of the game is all it takes for the Knicks’ veteran PG:

Similar to Immanuel Quickley, Rose simply loves the game of basketball. Whether it represents an escape from reality or just a boyhood love, he puts it all on the court every night for a team he’s only been a part of for half of season. However, at 32 years old, Rose has turned back the clock and emerged as a vintage weapon. Against the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday evening, Rose posted 25 points, completely taking over the contest and winning this game with his production and vision.

With experience in the postseason, the Knicks will desperately need Rose and his comforting presence. He can make shots when it matters most and isn’t afraid to attack some of the leagues best players. That confidence will spill over to the rest of the team, and with a tough West Coast schedule upcoming, the team will need their stoic veteran.