Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
If the Knicks draft him, RJ Barrett knows he'd be responsible for helping turn around a franchise that has won just one playoff series in the last 19 years. And he's OK with that.
"I feel like that would be a challenge that I'm willing to accept," Barrett said on Wednesday at the NBA's media availability for projected lottery picks.
The Knicks have met with Ja Morant and Cam Reddish, and worked out Darius Garland and Jarrett Culver. But the consensus among opposing execs is that they will take Barrett at No. 3 if they hold on to the pick. It's hard to say how likely a trade down is, but it would make sense for the Knicks to listen to offers until they are ready to make a pick.
Barrett reiterated on Wednesday that he wants to play in New York.
"It would mean a lot," Barrett said when asked about being drafted by the Knicks. "My late grandfather, rest in peace, he was the biggest Knicks fan. He always told me I'd play for the Knicks. So it would mean a lot for me to play for the team."
Barrett said his meetings and workout with the Knicks last week went well. He was asked why he felt he'd be built for New York.
"I can't say much more than just you see how I am and what I've done so far in my career," he said. "I feel like I accept the challenge. And I'm really going to give it everything I've got."
The 6-foot-7 forward 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 the draft. Scouts and evaluators have wondered about Barrett's shot and ability to get by defenders on the perimeter.
"You don't even know. I've been working so hard everyday. I've gotten a lot better," he said. "And I'm really excited and happy where I am right now."
Barrett added that he'd have no problem playing for any other team than the Knicks if they drafted him, and that his goal is solely to make the NBA. But it's worth noting that he decided against working out for the Grizzlies ahead of the NBA Draft.
"My agent (Bill Duffy) and I and my parents we just decided not to," he said. "Not really anything wrong with Memphis. New York is just more where I wanted to be."
Here is Barrett on a few other topics...
The Knicks roster: "I played against Kevin Knox a lot growing up so we know each other. Allonzo Trier. Playing with Mitchell Robinson would be exciting. Really everybody on the roster."
Playing at The Garden: "It would be great. I played there once and it was such a crazy environment. The lights are really bright there. Everything is great there so we'll see."
On why he's been so vocal about wanting to play in New York: "I'm not ashamed. I'm not scared or worried. If it doesn't work out that way, I'm not going to cry about it."
On the possibility of playing with Zion Williamson: "That's exciting. I don't care where I go. If I play with him, I'm playing with my best friend there. If I play in New York, The Mecca, it feels like home to me."
On if the situation with Kristaps Porzingis requesting a trade - or the Knicks' recent struggles on the court - gave him any pause about wanting to play here: "No, what I always say is to each his own. Everybody has a different trajectory or path in life. I feel like wherever I go that's going to be the place for me."
On handling the New York media: "It's just media. I'm fine with it. I've dealt with a lot of media and I know the New York media different, for sure. But I'm smart, I'll be fine. I'll be good."
"I'm a confident guy. I'm not going to just say someone is better than me," Garland said in explaining why he believes he's the draft's best point guard. "…. That's just not me. I'm a competitor, he is too. So when we match up together it's going to be a battle."