Ex-Knicks Star Breaks Silence Over His Brother’s Untimely Death

Knicks' Jalen Brunson against former teammate RJ Barrett

Getty Jalen Brunson #11 of the New York Knicks dribbles against Scottie Barnes #4 and RJ Barrett #9 of the Toronto Raptors.

Former New York Knicks lottery pick, RJ Barrett, spoke for the first time since his younger brother, Nathan, passed away on Tuesday, March 12

“It’s a hard time, for sure,” Barrett told reporters in his first public interview on March 29 since the Raptors granted him time to grieve with his family. “He was my best friend. I’m always missing him. I still text him. I still call him sometimes; I don’t know why. But I’m thankful for all the support from everybody & definitely from the Raptors.”

Following Nathan’s untimely death, the Knicks, through Tom Thibodeau, expressed their sympathy for their former player and his family.

“On behalf of our organization and our team, we’d like to send our heartfelt condolences to the Barrett family and the loss of their son Nathan and RJ’s brother,” Thibodeau told reporters before the Knicks’ road game in Portland on March 14. “So our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire family.”

Barrett sat out the Raptors 145-101 loss to the Knicks on Wednesday, March 27, as he was still ramping up his conditioning.

“If I know my brother, he would want me to be here, to be playing, to try to continue to make the Barrett legacy grow,” Barrett added.

RJ Barrett Thrives in New Role With Raptors

Traded as part of the OG Anunoby package, Barrett felt a sigh of relief that his role has changed for the better with the Raptors after he dreaded standing in the corner waiting for the kickout pass for the larger part of his tenure with the Knicks.

“That’s not me,” Barrett told New York Post’s Stefan Bondy. “I enjoy playing free moving. So I’m enjoying the playing style here (in Toronto).”

His comment backed up former Knicks general manager Scott Perry’s claim that New York coach Tom Thibodeau misused his former lottery pick.

The Knicks traded the Canadian-born wingman to his hometown team, along with Immanuel Quickley and a second-round pick for Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn on December 30 last year.

Since the trade, Barrett is averaging 20.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists while shooting at a high clip for the Raptors. The former No. 3 pick is connecting on 55.3% of his field goal attempts and 41.7% from the 3-point range.

It was a far cry from the inefficient first half of the season with the Knicks when he only averaged 18.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 26 games on 42.3% field goal shooting and  33.1% clip from beyond the arc.

Crux of the Trade

The trade, however, made the Knicks a more cohesive team on both ends of the floor.

Anunoby, with his low usage rate and defensive versatility, became a seamless fit with the Knicks. They were 15-2 when Anunoby was healthy to play.

But Anunoby’s health is becoming a concern for the Knicks.

“Now Anunoby’s notorious fragility is very much New York’s problem and a bigger one than the Knicks could have probably fathomed. It is a sad thing to say because, in a lot of ways, Anunoby has been a perfect acquisition in the sport’s self-proclaimed mecca,” Toronto Star columnist Dave Feschuk wrote on March 25.

Anunoby has never played more than 70 games since his rookie year when he saw action in 74 games. Over the last four seasons, he’s only played more than 65 games in just one of them.

Anunoby has already missed 23 games since the trade.



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