Knicks Star Scorches as Thibodeau Sets the Record Straight on Criticism

Tom Thibodeau NY Knicks

Getty New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau looks on during a game against the Denver Nuggets.

On Tuesday night against the Spurs, New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett accomplished something that hasn’t really happened for him over the last month or so. He actually had a good shooting night.

In 38 minutes of play at the Alamo City, the 21-year-old put up a game-high 32 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the field. Barrett also drained seven threes in eight tries; his best effort from long-range since his NBA career began in 2019. He added five boards, two assists and two steals in the game as well.

As a result, New York snapped a three-game losing streak with a 121-109 road win.

Barrett’s big night came in the wake of Tom Thibodeau attempting to reframe comments he had made about the former No. 3 overall pick over the weekend. At the time, it appeared as though Thibodeau was ripping Barrett’s work ethic, something he had praised in the past.

However, the Knicks coach insisted before the Spurs game that nothing could have been further from the truth.

Thibodeau Maintains That He Wasn’t Ripping Barrett

There’s no debating the fact that Barrett’s shooting woes had reached epic proportions recently. Over the 14-game stretch heading into the bout with the Spurs, he averaged just 11.1 points per contest on 33.5% shooting overall and 23.1% from three-point range.

That’s a next-level slump, and it prompted Thibodeau to make the following comments over the weekend:

To me, you get rhythm when you work. Last year, he got going when he started coming in every night to shoot. So, there’s no notion that you [work on your shot in the gym] sometimes — you’ve got to do it all the time… So, get back in the gym, get back to grooving your shot. Shoot a lot of threes and you’ll start making more.

Although that statement had the distinct feel of a shot, Thibodeau insisted on Monday that he was actually showing confidence in his young star by referencing a past instance where he had worked his way back into form:

No, no — I think the question was about him getting out of the slump. And I said I have a lot of confidence in him because he did it last year, and he did that by being in the gym. You know, coming back at night and he grooved his shot and worked his way through it. He’s a problem-solver and he’s a worker… My confidence is — I know he can do it because he already did it. I thought that was the question that was asked.

In any case, Barrett looks to have responded to whatever it was Thibodeau was trying to put out there.

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Robinson Comes Alive

The other big story to come out of Tuesday’s game was Mitchell Robinson’s impressive effort. After getting pushed to the bench in favor of Nerlens Noel, Robinson responded by having his finest game of the season.

Over 22 minutes of action, Robinson scored 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting and added 14 rebounds, three blocked shots and two steals in the contest. When he was on the court, the Knicks outscored the Spurs by 13 points.

After the game, Robinson noted that playing with the second unit forced him to kick things into a higher gear. “They run so I have to get down there,’’ he said, via the New York Post. “With them running it pushes me to run, too.’’


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