It gets to a different level when they start chanting your name in Madison Square Garden. He reaches a different place. Knicks fans, we know, are steadfastly loyal – to the team, yes, but especially to the children of the country.
Hell, even Frank Ntilikina received a rousing ovation from the faithful Wednesday night when he knocked down a late shot in what Marv Albert called “gar-bahge time,” and he doesn’t even play here anymore.
They’re chanting RJ Barrett’s name in the Garden now. Chants emerged several times throughout the Knicks’ soaring, 108-85 beating the Mavericks – perhaps their most impressive performance from start to finish of the season, a win that saw them come back to. 500 to 21-21.
The Knicks are playing well at home again – five in a row for them at the Garden, now 11-11 there for the year – and Barrett is one of the main reasons. He scored 32 points against Dallas. Paired with the 31 he played against Spurs on Monday, that makes Barrett, at 21 years and 212 days old, the youngest Knick to hit 30 straight hits.
A whole Texas in two stages for the child.
The Garden noticed. The Garden has been there for Barrett from the start, through a tough rookie season, throughout last year when he made huge strides. This year started off in tatters, Barrett running out of time with the flu and then COVID, struggling with his shot whenever he was able to play.
At the worst of those times, he had said, “I’ll find a solution. “
He understood it. He’s now a multidimensional player – who gets more and more fearless going all the way to the edge, no longer settling for riders. It’s good that he’s not afraid. Boston’s Robert Williams played with him in two games last week – blocking a bunch of Barrett’s shots, altering others. Barrett shrugged. He always attacks.
“I stayed aggressive,” Barrett said. “I tried to read what the game gave me.”
His game, at its best, has now grown into an indoor-outdoor assortment, and it’s only getting better. His friend and teammate, Evan Fournier, said when he scores on all three levels – indoor, long range, midrange – “he’s a lot less predictable and so much more dangerous”.
It turned into an enjoyable board game watching Ja Morant and Barrett – the No.2 and No.3 picks in the famous 2019 Draft, believed to be Little Steven and Clarence in Zion Williamson’s Springsteen – each make distinct climbs. towards the notoriety of the NBA.
Morant is having the best year, when he’s in good health, and he’s playing for the best team, the Grizzlies sitting comfortably atop the Southwest Division. But Barrett is starting to grow into a regular force to be reckoned with. He is averaging 23.4 points in his last eight games. It shoots at 46%. He reversed the Knicks’ most spectacular shot of the season last Thursday, closing a comeback against the Celtics.
And he’s still five months away from his 22nd birthday.
This is the part you should always remember.
“RJ is stable, never goes too high, never goes too low,” said coach Tom Thibodeau. “He’s doing a lot of extra work right now, coming back to the gym at night. This is an important factor.
Fournier said: “There is no cap on what he can do.”
And suddenly the Knicks get you thinking about what their cap can be. Back at sea level, they have the chance to strengthen their record and climb east next week before the schedule takes a significant turn for the more arduous. Julius Randle played better on Wednesday – in fact everyone did, with all five starters scoring in double digits for the first time since opening night.
“We play good basketball,” said Thibodeau. “We have to stack our days.
“Tonight,” Fournier said, “should be the norm.”
“When we share the ball, when we stop, when we come out like that,” Barrett said, “it’s hard to stop.”
And when Barrett plays like that? Yeah. This ceiling remains to be determined. For the player, of course. And for the team too. Listen to the Garden …
“RJ Barrett! “
New York Post