About an hour after the Knicks took him with the third pick of the NBA Draft on Thursday night, RJ Barrett delivered a straightforward message to the city.
"New Yorkers, I'm here. I love you. Let's try to get back to that championship way," Barrett said late Thursday.
After all of the last-minute workouts with other players, New York made the expected move in taking Barrett with the third overall pick.
Knicks GM Scott Perry said that the club had Barrett rated highly on its board all season. While the Knicks listened to potential trade offers, Perry said they never came close to trading the pick. Perry added that Barrett convinced New York that he was the pick during his workout and visit to the team facility before the draft.
"When he came in, he kinda won our building over," Perry said. "When we bring guys in, we allow them to spend time with not only our front office staff, [but our] coaching staff, medical staff. It became apparent he was going to be a perfect fit from a culture standpoint. [He] just reaffirmed what we seen done in the collegiate season that he has a really good chance to be a great player at the NBA level. Made us really comfortable at No. 3."
Barrett knows his Knicks history, so he realizes how meaningful it was to be cheered by the New York fans at Barclays Center on Thursday.
"I'm glad that the city wants me here as much as I want to be here," Barrett said.
Barrett was emotional after being selected, tearing up while embracing his father, Rowan, a former professional basketball player.
"Everything that I've been working for, for 19 years came out at once. I'm really proud and thankful," Barrett said, noting that he also was emotional because his late grandfather used to tell him he'd play for the Knicks. "It's sad that he can't be here to see it but I'm just very happy."
The 6-foot-7 Barrett averaged 22.6 points, 4.3 assists and 7.6 rebounds as a freshman -- the first player in NCAA history to have at least 850 points, 250 rebounds and 150 assists in a season. He said his game has improved significantly since his college season ended. Scouts and evaluators have wondered about Barrett's shot and ability to get by defenders on the perimeter.
Barrett has said that he's worked on several aspects of his game since the end of his season at Duke.
When asked about it on Thursday, Perry mentioned Barrett's shooting as one area of improvement for Barrett.
"He has the form and mechanics," Perry said, adding that he's confident that the shot will improve because of Barrett's drive and the Knicks' developmental coaches. "He's a capable passer… with speed of the NBA game, (he's going to be able to) do multiple things on the court."
New York had worked out Vanderbilt's Darius Garland and UNC's Coby White shortly before the draft in case they were presented with a strong offer to trade down, or to obtain a second first-round pick. They clearly did not get an offer they'd liked and were comfortable with Barrett.
Barrett, in turn, is comfortable with the spotlight that comes with being a top draft pick in New York.
"I went to Duke, we got a lot of attention," he said. "Being in New York there's going to be a lot more, but I've just been built this way to handle it. I'll be fine."