RJ Barrett Sounds off on Return While Other Starters Rest After Pelicans Beat Knicks

RJ Barrett, New York Knicks

Getty RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks dribbles against the Chicago Bulls.


ew York Knicks’ starting wing RJ Barrett returned from a two-game absence and played in a meaningless game while another starter rested.

Barrett has no complaint. In fact, he welcomed it.

Barrett scored 28 points to pace the Knicks, who played without Julius Randle (left ankle sprain), Jalen Brunson (right hand injury maintenance) and hometown kid Mitchell Robinson (rest) in a 113-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

Barrett added seven rebounds and six assists, one shy of his season high which he also did against the Pelicans on Feb. 25.

“It felt good to get out there and just play again especially after a couple of games [of absence],” Barrett said after the game. “So, I definitely needed it.”

Barrett was sharp inside the arc, as he aggressively attacked the paint. He went 11-of-16 on 2-point field goals. Where he was rusty was from behind the arc, as he missed all of his nine 3-point attempts including two in the final moments when they needed it.

Despite coming up short, Barrett was proud of their effort as they nearly pulled the rug from under the Pelicans, who really needed the victory to enhance their playoff bid in the tight Western Conference.

“We fought,” Barrett said. “I mean, we’re gonna fight every single game, give everything we got. [Whoever] is out there on the court, we believe we can win. I think we showed that.”

With Barrett on the attack mode and Immanuel Quickley firing from the outside, the Knicks twice overhauled a Pelicans’ double-digit lead. But the Pelicans were not to be denied on their home floor, drawing big games from second-year player Trey Murphy III (31 points) and veteran guard CJ McCollum (23 points).

For Barrett, it was a testament of their right mindset to play the right way even in a meaningless game, which New York coach Tom Thibodeau drilled in them.

“It was a crucial game for them. They made some tough plays down the stretch. But we are proud of the way we play,” Barrett said.

Knicks Toe Delicate Line Between Rest and Rhythm

Thibodeau was pleased with Barrett’s overall effort despite going 0-for-9 from the 3-point land.

He explained the rationale behind the decision to play Barrett instead of letting him rest for the playoffs.

“I think it’s important for him to get some rhythm in and that’s what you wrestle with is the rest versus rhythm,” Thibodeau said after the game. “And he’s missed a lot of time. And so he’s been out. Jalen has been out a lot. And then of course, Julius is out a lot. But [Barrett] got out there, overall, did a good solid job.”

Knicks Finish with 5th Best Road Record

The loss kept the Knicks from tying the Boston Celtics for the third-best road record this season. Instead, they settled with a 24-17 mark, still the fifth-best road record in the league.

The Knicks have a chance to even their home and away record with a win in a rematch against the Indiana Pacers on Sunday for the final regular season game.

Currently, they have a 23-17 record at Madison Square Garden after a slow start to the season.