Knicks’ RJ Barrett Exudes Confidence About His Defense in FIBA World Cup

RJ Barrett, Anthony Edwards, Knicks

Getty Anthony Edwards #1 of the Minnesota Timberwolves dribbles as RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks defends.

RJ Barrett was the New York Knicks‘ worst defender based on defensive rating last season. But he’s confident that his defense will be much improved when the 2023 FIBA World Cup tips off on Aug. 25.

“I think we’re allowed to be a little bit more physical on on-ball [defense] and ball screen. For me, I’ve been able to play FIBA since I was 14, so I’m kind of used to it,” Barrett told Canadian reporters after their second day of practice.

In 73 regular-season games, Barrett registered a 118 defensive rating, meaning the Knicks allowed 118 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor, according to Basketball Reference. His defensive rating improved in the playoffs to 111, tied for sixth among the 12 Knicks players Tom Thibodeau used.

In the FIBA World Cup, Barrett will be asked to focus more on defense as All-NBA First Team guard Shai-Gilgeous Alexander and NBA champion Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets are expected to carry the scoring load for Canada.

Barrett and Canada will face formidable opponents in the group stage. They will have their hands full against his Knicks teammate Evan Fournier on Aug. 25, followed by Lebanon led by Asia Cup MVP Wael Arakji on Aug. 27, and finally, against his former Knicks teammate Kristaps Porzingis and Latvia on Aug. 29.

Evan Fournier Looks Sharp in FIBA World Cup Warmup

Evan Fournier regained his scoring touch after getting buried at the end of the Knicks bench.

Fournier powered France’s 80-69 victory over Montenegro on Wednesday for their second straight win in their buildup for the FIBA World Cup.

The 30-year-old shooting guard had half of his points in the opening salvo as France wrested control early and never looked back.

Fournier vowed to use the FIBA World Cup as his launch pad following the lowest point of his career last season. He only appeared in a career-low 27 games with the Knicks, as he didn’t see eye to eye with coach Tom Thibodeau after he decided to remove the veteran guard from the rotation.

“You want to spit on everyone. You have hatred. Derrick Rose and I looked at each other and said to each other: ‘What the hell are we doing here?’ During the five-on-five practice, we were on the side like some prospects—uncool times. And when I realized that wouldn’t change, I took things more slowly,” Fournier told L’Equipe.

With the Knicks having a hard time finding him a new home, Fournier hopes a solid outing in the FIBA World Cup will revive his trade value, which is currently at its lowest.

Timberwolves Add Ex-Knicks Player to Their Coaching Staff

The Minnesota Timberwolves announced on Wednesday that they are adding James White as a player development assistant in Chris Finch’s coaching staff.

White, 40, played briefly for the Knicks 2012-13 season, averaging 2.2 points across 57 games. Nicknamed the “Flight,” White represented the Knicks in the 2013 NBA All-Star Dunk Contest.

He previously coached in The Basketball League for two seasons and was an assistant coach with the Iowa Wolves, the Timberwolves’ G League affiliate.






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