Canada’s RJ Barrett relishes first inning of playoffs with Knicks resurgence – fr

Canada’s RJ Barrett relishes first inning of playoffs with Knicks resurgence – fr

It’s so close you can almost taste it, and RJ Barrett is ready to fill his cup.
Being young, being a Knick, and being in the playoffs? Not bad. Not bad at all.

But it’s getting better. Just over a year ago, New York was one of the hardest-hit areas in the United States – if not the world – when COVID-19 hit. Overwhelmed hospitals and overwhelmed morgues were a harbinger of what could happen once the virus began to creep into every corner. The NBA went out of business in March – ending Barrett’s rookie season with the Knicks – and New York City entered a tight lockdown.

But the city that never sleeps begins to come to life. Summer is around the corner. The city is set to fully reopen by July 1 and is already returning to the kind of energetic urban experience that seems so close yet so far away for residents of southern Ontario, or Barrett’s hometown of Mississauga. .

On Sunday, the Knicks will host a playoff game at Madison Square Garden for the first time in eight years and just the fifth time since the Knicks’ 14-game playoff streak in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s that are part of the NBA tradition. as Pat Riley and then Jeff Van Gundy guided the Knicks to final appearances and New York’s rivalries with the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat spicing up the decade.

City increased the Garden’s capacity to 13,000 in time for the opener against fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks, the biggest crowd in the NBA yet. It’s not the 21,000 that normally rock the garden, but it will be a sample of the energy Barrett can’t wait to savor.

Even being part of the Knicks’ first winning team in a decade has given Barrett a taste of what’s to come.

“Winning New York as a whole, a whole new level,” Barrett said in an interview earlier this week. “See how, even with the limited number of fans that we have, how much it goes up there and then after the game, just seeing videos on Twitter of people going crazy outside the arena, it’s been very funny. It has been such an honor to be able to help make a difference in some way.

Barrett was instrumental in a turnaround that saw the Knicks go from the sixth worst record in the league last season to fourth seed in the East this year. As the No.3 pick in the 2019 draft, Barrett has taken his share of criticism for his own struggles. Among those with at least 700 field goal attempts last season, Barrett’s 0.479 live-shooting percentage was the lowest in the league.

He was under intense scrutiny, even as a 19-year-old making his way into the league.

Barrett rebuilt his jump shot during the offseason and made the difference. He is the only player 20 or under in NBA history to average at least 17 points, five rebounds and three assists while shooting at least 40% out of three. He started off slow, but from mid-February to the end of the regular season, Barrett shot 45.8 percent from deep on nearly five attempts per game.

“Just seeing the positive results is great, it feels good because you know there has been so much work that has been done,” Barrett said. “And when the teams were in the bubble last year fighting for a championship, I was in the gym, locked in Florida, working hard on my shot every day; two to three workouts per day. And to see it bear fruit during the season, it has really been a great feeling for me.

Beyond his confidence in his jump shot, Barrett earned the trust of Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, a chef de mission who saw enough of his second-year wing to place him second in the league. NBA – and second on the Knicks ahead of Julius Randle – in minutes.

The requirements suit Barrett perfectly.

“I’ve always had real coaches, I’ve always had good coaches trying to win,” Barrett said. “And I think that’s why we work well together, is because I’m trying to win. And with Thibs, if you’re not bought and you have an ego and all kinds of different things, it won’t work because Thibs will tell you what it is in front of you. Thibs will take you; every possession. It does not matter. You just need to have thick skin for this. Everyone has to be on the same page to try to win, but I love it. I love playing for Thibs and hope to be able to play for him for a long time.

The only downside – at least for Canadian basketball fans – is that if the Knicks’ playoffs extend to the conference finals, Barrett will not be available to play for Canada at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Victoria on June 29. to July 4. With Jamal Murray out with a knee injury and questionable Shai Gilgeous-Alexander due to plantar fasciitis, Barrett is said to be an important part of national team head coach Nick Nurse’s wing rotation. Canada must win in Victoria to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics later this summer.

“Right now all I’ve really focused on is the playoffs. I think everything else will work out once that is done, ”said Barrett, who led Canada to its only gold at a world championship at the U-19 World Cup in the summer of 2017. “I know that with Team Canada this year. , we have a great group of guys, really talented, with all the guys we have in the NBA and then overseas as well. So I think this year this team will really be able to put Canada back on the map and show the world what it’s all about.

But before that, there’s summer in New York and the Knicks are on a mission. Barrett feels lucky to be a part of it.

“I’ve heard of stories and I’ve been able to see a few of which you know pictures of the time,” he says. “I mean for a Canadian kid, kid from Mississauga, in the big city, doing good things, on the big New York team, man, there’s no better feeling.

“This is what I dreamed of. I feel so blessed. I love the big stage, so being drafted by the Knicks and doing well, hopefully we’re going to continue to do well in the playoffs and hopefully take it to an even greater level.


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