The New York Knicks lost a nail-biter to the Charlotte Hornets this weekend, and coach David Fizdale once again came under fire for a tactical decision.
On the final possession of a one-point game, Fizdale chose to sit star rookie RJ Barrett and insert sharpshooter Wayne Ellington, who had not played for the entire game. The Knicks wound up letting Julius Randle take a long contested fadeaway, which he missed.
On Monday, Fizdale gave a strange reason to reporters for why he sat Barrett.
“[Ellington was in] just as a distraction, to try to open up floor for Julius to have a driving lane,” he said, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Trust me, more nights than not RJ Barrett will be in the game at crunch time.”
It does seem rather strange to sit one of your best offensive players in a one-point situation for the purposes of trying to better distract an opponent. It is especially so considering that Barrett had already scored 22 points in the game and is arguably a better, more efficient driver than Randle.
Tom Thibodeau may no longer be in the NBA, but his spirit lives on in New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale.
After the Knicks suffered a 113-92 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, Fizdale defended the heavy minutes he was giving to rookie star RJ Barrett.
“He’s got the day off tomorrow,” said Fizdale, per Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. “We gotta get off this load management crap. Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid’s 19 years old. Drop it.”
Barrett, who is averaging 17.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game so far this season, played a whopping 41 minutes on Sunday, despite the game being a blowout from the first half onward. That brought his total on the year to 37.1 minutes per game, and he now leads the league in total minutes played.
While Barrett should indeed be getting significant playing time so that he can develop, there is a balance to be struck between that and not trotting him out unnecessarily in noncompetitive situations. All told, this is not the first time that Fizdale’s game management has come into question.
The New York Knicks might not be too watchable this season, but one interesting storyline could be how the team deploys rookie star RJ Barrett.
Knicks head coach David Fizdale spoke on Tuesday about the possibility of playing the No. 3 overall pick at the point guard position for the team.
“I’ve thrown him at that position a couple times already,” said Fizdale, per Ian Begley of SNY. “He played some of that in college. I think it adds another layer to how dynamic he can be. Especially having someone that big that can switch things do some different things defensively. So yeah, I’ll sprinkle that in.
“He’s really poised. He looks comfortable,” Fizdale continued about Barrett. “The kid likes having the ball in his hands. He’s unselfish. He finds people. He understands – he knows our plays from that position. I feel very comfortable if I have to throw him there.”
The 6-foot-7 Barrett, a natural wing, averaged 22.6 points and 4.3 dimes per game at Duke last season, posting the highest usage rate on the team as well as one of the highest assist percentages.
The Knicks have a crowded point guard rotation with Dennis Smith Jr, Frank Ntilikina, and new arrival Elfrid Payton all competing for minutes. It is hard to discount Barrett’s case for time at the 1 however, especially considering that this Hall of Fame point guard once called him a “next-level playmaker.”
“(Knicks fans) can expect that they’re getting a killer,” Williamson told SNY. “For the people that are trying to look down on him, RJ’s been through worse. He knows how to battle through it and he’s going to bring the city everything he’s got.”
Williamson and Barrett were close friends during their time together at Duke. The two entered college as highly-regarded recruits. They left with Williamson viewed as the best player in college basketball and runaway favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the draft, which he became. Barrett had a fine season but didn’t quite live up to his billing as a freshman. He still was picked No. 3 overall by the Knicks, who are hoping he will become the game-changer they have lacked.
New York had a quiet offseason. They failed to land Kevin Durant as they were hoping (or not hoping?) and ended up making several under-the-radar signings such as Julius Randle, Bobby Portis and Marcus Morris.
The top three picks in the 2019 NBA Draft went as expected, but the drama came in the post-selection interviews with ESPN’s Maria Taylor. Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett all cried when talking about what their parents meant to them and their success.
Seeing the emotion from the players and how much their parents meant to their success was endearing. Getting drafted — especially at the top of the NBA Draft — is the realization of dreams for many of these players.
The top of the 2019 NBA Draft appears to be finalized hours before the draft takes place.
Zion Williamson has long been expected to go No. 1 overall, while the Grizzlies have been tied to Ja Morant ever since winning the No. 2 pick in the lottery. RJ Barrett has also been expected to be picked by the Knicks at No. 3.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported Thursday that those picks are already set, meaning the mystery won’t begin until the New Orleans Pelicans pick at No. 4.
Top three picks in 2019 NBA draft are set, per sources: 1. Zion Williamson, Pelicans 2. Ja Morant, Grizzlies 3. RJ Barrett, Knicks
Zion Williamson might not be the only Duke star that the New Orleans Pelicans land in this year’s draft.
Veteran basketball writer Peter Vecsey reported Wednesday that the Pelicans are engaged in an “all-out effort” to trade up to the No. 2 draft slot (currently occupied by the Memphis Grizzlies) in order to select RJ Barrett. Such a package would feature, among other assets, the No. 4 overall pick that they acquired in principle from the Los Angeles Lakers for Anthony Davis.
NOLA, I’m told, is assembling assets in all out effort to leapfrog Knicks into second slot in order to snare RJ Barrett. Obviously, Pels are offering Grizz No 4 pick as part payment. No pity parties planned. NY would land Morant or Garland. Memphis would pluck point that drops…
The Pelicans also hold the No. 1 overall pick and are all but guaranteed to select Williamson, who played with Barrett at Duke.
Barrett himself has a different destination in mind, but the opportunity to run it back with his old teammate in New Orleans might just be enough to win him over if the Pelicans can somehow pull this off.
Despite late rumblings of going in a different direction, the New York Knicks are still reportedly targeting Duke’s RJ Barrett with the third overall pick.
The Knicks had a late workout with Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland, but according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, they remain intent on taking Barrett third overall.
Vanderbilt guard Darius Garland had his workout with the Knicks today, but New York remains locked on selecting Duke’s RJ Barrett with the NBA Draft’s third overall pick on Thursday, league sources tell ESPN.
Some late rumors had the Knicks springing a surprise in the form of Garland with the No. 3 pick, and the fact that they worked him out this close to draft day was only going to intensify that chatter. There may have been interest, and it may have been legitimate, but ultimately, they’ve been zeroed in on Barrett all along.
Ja Morant is widely considered to be the second-best player in the NBA Draft behind top prospect Zion Williamson, but there is apparently at least one scenario that could unfold that would see Morant fall past the No. 2 pick.
The New Orleans Pelicans currently hold the No. 4 pick, and there have been numerous reports that they are exploring options to trade it. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, one possibility they have considered is making a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies to move up to the No. 2 spot, where they would select former Duke swingman RJ Barrett.
If that happened, it would leave the New York Knicks to take Morant third overall. One executive who is familiar with the Knicks’ thinking heading into the draft told Berman that they are sticking with No. 3 and would be “delighted” to take Morant or Barrett. They were previously open to moving back if they were blown away with an offer, but that appears unlikely to happen.
Barrett has openly said that he wants to play for the Knicks, and he has even refused to work out for any other team. Morant emerged as a superstar in his sophomore season at Murray State last year, averaging 24.5 points, 10.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Aside from the Pelicans, we have not heard of a team preferring Barrett over Morant.
The first three picks of the NBA Draft appear to be settling into place thanks to another pronunciation from a top prospect.
RJ Barrett completed his visit with the New York Knicks on Monday. The Knicks hold the No. 3 pick, Barrett should be available, and the former Duke standout made it quite clear that he wants to be drafted there and won’t be visiting with any other teams.
RJ Barrett: “This is the place I want to be.” Barrett says the Knicks are the only team he’ll work out with and meet with before the draft. https://t.co/W5YpCHM1ag
Barrett turned down the opportunity to work out for the Memphis Grizzlies, who hold the No. 2 pick in the draft. They’re probably going to take Ja Morant after the New Orleans Pelicans make Zion Williamson the first pick, leaving Barrett to get his dream move to New York third overall. It increasingly seems like a foregone conclusion.