The worst capturing evening of RJ Barrett’s lone season at Duke introduced an surprising criticism that became lasting knowledge.
Barrett sensed he was going to get an earful from coach Mike Krzyzewski after making simply 8 of 30 photographs in an time beyond regulation loss to Syracuse on Jan. 14, 2019. And he was proper. Sort of.
“He got mad at me because I started to hesitate,” Barrett recalled Friday after the Knicks wrapped apply. “So he told me, ‘Don’t hesitate, because you should have shot 10 more shots.’ I said, ‘Dang, coach, 40 shots?’ He said, ‘I don’t want you to hesitate. Play free. Be yourself. We’re living and dying with you.’ You know that’s always something you could appreciate from a coach.”
Barrett’s evolution right into a big-time scorer for the Knicks runs parallel along with his willingness to turn into a quantity shooter. He can enhance his numbers in a Saturday matinee in opposition to the Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden after which discover a place to look at the retiring Krzyzewski in what might be the Hall of Fame coach’s final sport within the Final Four later within the night.
“That’s my mindset: I’m going to be myself. I can’t hesitate,” Barrett mentioned of making use of “Coach K’s” advice. “I’ve got to make the right play.”
In the 18 video games for the reason that All-Star break, Barrett is averaging 25.7 factors per sport (upping his season common to twenty.1) and the Knicks are 9-9. Barrett’s capturing proportion throughout that span (41.2) is similar as over the course of the season however down from a 12 months in the past (44.1) when he averaged 17.6 factors because the clear second fiddle to teammate Julius Randle.
Of the NBA’s 30 scorers averaging at least 20 per sport, solely Randle (41.1) and the Raptors’ Fred VanVleet (40.8 %) are capturing decrease percentages than Barrett. And but there aren’t any indicators of hesitation even within the few video games when he hovers close to the 26.2 % he shot on that fateful evening for Duke.
“The way I like to view it is he’s 21 years old, and there’s been a progression to this,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned. “When you look at players in this league, we all tend to measure someone where they are today: So-and-so is averaging 27 a game or 25 a game. You forget all those years there were 14, 17, 20, 21 and 23. I like where RJ is. I want him to continue to approach each day the way he has.”
Barrett mentioned final month that becoming a member of the 20-point-per-game membership was a big particular person objective. Well, with the Knicks eradicated from playoff rivalry and 5 regular-season video games to go, milestones and particular person improvement is all that’s left to trace.
“I feel like I have five more games to get it higher,” Barrett mentioned. “I’ve been working towards it. I wouldn’t be able to do it without my teammates and coaching staff. I’m thankful that, ‘Wow, I’ve been able to do this because we’ve also been playing really good basketball.’ I don’t want to do anything to hinder the team, and hopefully continue to get better.”
In Barrett’s excellent world, this private sizzling streak and improved staff play would carry over much like what occurred within the COVID-19 bubble with Devin Booker and the Suns in August 2020. Booker averaged 30.5 factors per sport because the Suns reeled off eight straight wins. It wasn’t sufficient to sneak into these playoffs, however the Suns are the NBA’s winningest staff over the following two seasons.
“Your best players have to help set the tone for the team and it’s not only the words; it’s the actions, to me,” Thibodeau mentioned. “Your actions will always respect your priorities. I look at what he’s done since the All-Star break. He just keeps going this way.”
Thibodeau’s arm was ascending upward.