Third-year Knicks swingman RJ Barrett is honing in on the defensive side of the ball this year, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post.
“The biggest part I’ve been trying to work on is my defense. I want to be first-team all-defense,” Barrett said after a recent team practice. “Try to make every night a struggle for anybody I’m guarding.”
“He’s a terrific player,” head coach Tom Thibodeau raved about the 21-year-old wing, drafted with the third pick out of Duke in 2019. “We are asking him to do more this year, but I think he’s ready for that challenge.”
There’s more out of Madison Square Garden:
- New Knicks starting point guard Kemba Walker has had a bit of an up-and-down start to his Knicks tenure, but his head coach Tom Thibodeau would not give up the 31-year-old vet, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Walker averaged 10.3 PPG in 25.7 minutes, with a team-worst -17 plus-minus rating, through those first three games. “We need everyone to play well, so it’s not falling on Kemba,” Thibodeau said ahead of New York’s contest Tuesday evening against the Sixers. “Kemba is a good player. We know that. We’re still finding our way. Just be who you are.” The confidence Thibodeau had in Walker seems to have borne fruit in the short-term: Walker just led the Knicks to a 112-99 defeat of the Sixers. The point guard had a team-high 19 points (on 7-of-15 shooting), plus five assists, two boards, two steals and a block.
- While the effort of the Knicks may vary from game to game, the commitment of the club’s coach Tom Thibodeau never does, per Steve Popper of Newsday. “Thibs is a hell of a coach,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers raved ahead of their teams’ matchup Tuesday night. “Worked with me for three years [on the Celtics], felt like nine, I’m not sure. But he’s just good. He works his butt off. He’s in love with the game of basketball. If every player had that same passion they’d be better players. Same for coaching.”
- Even though drama may persist for several other playoff-level teams in the Atlantic Division, most notably the Sixers and the Nets, the Knicks have established a steady, supportive culture around All-Star forward Julius Randle and head coach Tom Thibodeau, writes Barbara Barker of Newsday.