Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
TEANECK, NJ - One of the bigger questions around the Knicks entering the season is this: what should the expectations be for rookie R.J. Barrett?
"(Knicks fans) can expect that they're getting a killer," Zion Williamson said in an interview with SNY at Panini's NBA Rookie Photo Shoot on Sunday. "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, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 Draft, is a close friend of Barrett's. Williamson and Barrett formed a strong bond while playing together at Duke last season. So you'd expect Williamson to offer a strong statement about his friend. But Williamson referencing Barrett's ability to battle through adversity is noteworthy.
As a 19-year-old rookie, Barrett will undoubtedly go through ups and downs this season. Each of his games will be heavily scrutinized because he's in the biggest media market in the country. So there will be reactions (and overreactions) to everything he does.
By all accounts, Barrett should handle the added attention well. He dealt with it as a decorated high school player, and in his lone season at Duke. And he bounced back from a rough start at Summer League to string together some solid performances.
"I felt like that really got my mojo going. So just trying to bring that into training camp is going to be good," Barrett said on Sunday at the Panini Rookie Photo Shoot.
Barrett will join a crowded field of wings at Knicks training camp next month. It will be interesting to see how head coach David Fizdale divides minutes among his wings and if Barrett ends up in the starting lineup.
Here are a few other notes from interviews with Barrett, Williamson and Iggy Brazdeikis on Sunday:
FINISHING AT THE RIM
One thing Barrett has been working on since Summer League? Finishing at the basket.
"I missed way too many layups (in Summer League)," Barrett said.
Finishing was a strength of Barrett's at Duke. But, as he said on Sunday, Barrett knows that he needs to improve all facets of his game --strengths and weaknesses -- to thrive at the next level.
KNICKS-WIDE GROUP TEXT CHAT
Brazdeikis and Barrett said the Knicks are on a group chat to talk about workouts and other things. Barrett said it's given players a chance to get to know one another. Both Barrett and Brazdeikis said they expect players to work out together before training camp begins in mid-September.
In addition to the rookies, free agent signees like Julius Randle, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis and Elfrid Payton will be playing together for the first time.
"I think we got a great team," Brazdeikis said when asked about the free agent additions, signed after the Knicks missed out on top free agent targets like Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard. "I think we all have that same mentality that we just want to win and make New York proud. I think we'll be great. We'll work together really well."
Barrett said 'it's going to be great' to play with so many experienced players. "I need that -- just trying to learn the game as quickly as possible," he said.
RJ DOESN'T BROADCAST WORKOUTS
Some players - or their trainers - will post footage of workouts and pickup games over the summer. You don't see Barrett posting much about, though.
"I don't play that game, man. People don't need to know what I'm doing," he said. "My thing is, I've never done that my whole life and I'm going to stay true to that. I work out behind the scenes, nobody knows, you just see it on the court, that's it."
What has Brazdeikis been up to since Summer League ended?
"Enjoying a lot of time with close friends and family. I needed that time -- I've been going non-stop for a whole year," he said. "That just gave me a couple weeks to relax and wind down a little bit. It was good for me mentally and physically, so now I'm just ready to go."
The rookies took photos for their Panini trading cards on Sunday at Farleigh Dickinson University. The company took more than 35,000 images during the shoot. It gathers 2 million autographs from players for the trading cards each season.
"It's dope. I used to collect some of these cards and now I have my own," said Williamson, whose favorite card growing up was of NFL star Barry Sanders. "The first thing I did (when seeing the Panini card) was flip it over to look at the stats and information. I was like, 'It was me.' It's dope."
Adds Brazdeikis: "It was actually surreal signing your own training cards. It's really crazy. Because I was a big trading card guy (growing up), I used to collect them all them. So now having my own and signing them is just amazing."