During the New York Knicks‘ tough 145-135 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on November 13, guard RJ Barrett didn’t play a single minute in the fourth quarter. However, he seemed to take his benching in stride.
“I think it’s time [to sit] when you’re fouling enough,” said Barrett, via the New York Post. “It falls on me for sure because I was guarding Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander], and he got me into some foul trouble. And that’s not good. I got to do a better job of not fouling.”
By the time he was benched by head coach Tom Thibodeau, Barrett had committed four personal fouls in 19 minutes of action. And he had the same number of points as he did fouls, shooting 2-of-10.
“It’s a lot on me,” Barrett said, according to SI.com’s Geoff Magliocchetti. “I took a lot of bad shots.”
Jalen Brunson Also Defends Decision
In his November 14 story, Magliocchetti noted that Thibodeau’s benching a player the Knicks had extended for $120 million just two months ago will “likely be used as ammunition for the growing number of Knicks supporters calling for [his] ousting.”
But Barrett wasn’t the only player who said his forced rest was justified. Jalen Brunson, whom the Knicks signed in June, said he’d have the done same if he were Thibodeau.
“I mean, I wouldn’t have played myself either, the way I was playing defensively,” Brunson said, according to Mark W. Sanchez’s story in the Post.
With Barrett on the bench, Thibodeau turned to Evan Fournier, who has not been effective this year, averaging only 6.9 points per game, his lowest average since his rookie year. Besides a steal, Fournier contributed almost nothing, taking three shots and missing them all.
With the Knicks sitting at 7-7 and in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, their season is essentially playing out as projected by FiveThirtyEight. Still, heading into the season there was a sense of optimism with Brunson running the offense.
The team hasn’t been at full strength for the past six games. Mitchell Robinson has been hurt, forcing Jericho Sims into more action than expected. In three of his past four appearances, Sims has logged over 24 minutes of playing time, 11 minutes more than his career average. In those games, he’s scored or rebounded in double digits one time.
With the Knicks essentially stuck in mediocrity for the foreseeable future, pundits have begun floating blockbuster trade ideas as a way to give the franchise a jolt. In one, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz suggested the Knicks trade for Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant. In his scenario, the Knicks would give Julius Randle, Immanuel Quickley, Derrick Rose and a plethora of draft picks.
“For a Knicks team loaded with draft picks, dumping them for Durant and getting out of purgatory in the East makes them a true title threat,” Swartz wrote in a story published November 14. “A starting five of Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, Durant, Obi Toppin and Mitchell Robinson features plenty of scoring.”
The Knicks’ next game is at 8 p.m. Eastern time today at the Denver Nuggets (9-4).