RJ Barrett has noticed the disrespect. He remembers it. He sees it’s continuing.
For a player drafted third overall in the NBA’s largest market, Barrett hasn’t quite achieved the recognition of his peers. And now entering his fourth season with the Knicks, the 22-year-old has a theory as to why.
“Besides the fans, which we do have a lot of fans, everybody else really doesn’t like us,” Barrett said. “Everybody else doesn’t like us. I mean, I don’t know. It’s weird. I’ve gotten respect, but at the same time, there’s a lot of disrespect. But that’s fine. All the guys that they want to put in front of me or whatever, I’m in their heads. So it really doesn’t matter.”
Whether a widespread hatred of the Knicks organization has contributed to a lack of recognition, Barrett has, in retrospect, good reasons to believe he was snubbed from the All-Rookie Teams in 2020. It fueled him to an improved second season. As Barrett alluded to Tuesday, most of those All-Rookie honorees have fallen behind Barrett’s NBA trajectory. He didn’t provide names but members of the 2020 All-Rookie Teams included Kendrick Nunn, Eric Paschall, Terence Davis and Coby White.
“I wasn’t on the All-Rookie teams but look where I ended up,” Barrett said. “Where are some of those guys, you know what I mean?”
Even after Barrett’s breakthrough last season to averages of 20 points and 5.8 rebounds, he received zero votes in the annual NBA GM survey released Tuesday morning. The categories included ‘Most Likely To Have a Breakout Season’ and ‘The Most Versatile Defender.’
“Do they ever (mention me)?” Barrett shrugged.
There’s indeed a disconnect between how Barrett is viewed leaguewide and his status among Knick fans who chanted his name regularly at MSG. The naysayers point to Barrett’s inefficient scoring numbers and lack of athleticism. Despite commanding the highest annual average salary in Knicks history with his four-year, $107 million extension (which kicks in next season), Barrett’s contract fell well short of the max deals given to fellow draft classmen Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and Darius Garland.
Even Tyler Herro, who was drafted 10 spots below Barrett, got a bigger contract this offseason.
Asked Tuesday if he considered forgoing extension talks until becoming a restricted free agent next summer, Barrett said that certainty in New York was a priority.
“My thought was I wanted to get a deal done, because like I’ve always said, I always wanted to be here,” Barrett said. “So I was trying to lock it in.”
Barrett also has a long-term perspective on money-making in the NBA.
“Everybody thinks they’re worth more than they got. That’s probably literally every person. I’m thankful, and I was taught to not watch other people’s pockets,” Barrett said. “There’s also many ways to get to where you want to go. Different players that have played a lot of years have probably gotten to a certain amount of money that you wouldn’t really think. It doesn’t matter if it comes all at once. If you build it over years, you can get it regardless. You just have to stay consistent. Everybody’s journey is different. So I’m happy with the journey that I’m on and pushing for more.”