RJ Barrett put together one of his best games of the 2021-22 season against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night. And while it resulted in a New York Knicks loss, Barrett caught the attention of everyone, including Lakers star LeBron James.
Barrett played an absurd 50 out of 53 possible minutes, scoring 36 points on 13-for-28 from the field while grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out five assists. It was an all-around performance from Barrett, who has had some ups-and-downs since entering the NBA from Duke University in the 2019 Draft.
James had significant praise for Barrett following the game, saying that his appreciation for the young Knicks forward’s game goes back to his high school days in Canada. “When he started the game off, I think he had 17 in the first quarter if I’m not mistaken, and he hit some big-time shots down the stretch. Obviously the three to tie it at 111, the full-court dunk in transition, and he just hit key shot after key shot tonight,” James said of Barrett.
“I’ve been on RJ for quite a while now. I was in Toronto during the summer time, I think he was a high school junior or a senior and there was a call to my agent Rich that there was a kid in Toronto that was possibly next and it was the offseason, I was in Toronto just having a good time in Toronto, but I was going to the gym to get some work in and they called Rich and asked could he join and I was like absolutely.
“So I’ve been knowing him for quite a while and I followed him throughout those last years of high school, when obviously he was at Duke and now as a Knick,” James continued. “He’s young so you’re gonna have your bumps and bruises throughout the course of your career when you’re young and figuring out the game, figuring out the speed, the tempo and things of that nature, but I think he’s handled it extremely well, especially since it’s a different light and a different heat when you play for the Knicks. I think he’s handled it extremely well.”
Prior to Saturday’s offensive explosion, Barrett has had a relatively quiet season compared to his breakout 2020-21 campaign. While his points per game have increased by 0.3, his shooting percentages are down across the board and he’s also seen slight dips in his rebounding and assist numbers.
The belief remains that he can turn things around and become the player the Knicks hoped he would be after selecting him No. 3 overall in 2019. James is also confident in this after scouting him in Canada multiple years ago. Performances like the one against the Lakers show what he can be at his best.
James famously recruited Talen Horton-Tucker to Klutch Sports after seeing him in a high school tournament, admitting that after Horton-Tucker’s strong showing during the preseason.
James admits knee didn’t feel great prior to Knicks game
James was a game-time decision against the Knicks due to swelling in his knee that had kept him out five games prior. After a warm-up on the Crypto.com Arena floor, it was announced that James would play.
Despite a strong performance, James admitted that his knee was not 100%.
“I didn’t feel that great in my pregame warmup, to be honest. I didn’t feel as bad as the last warmup I had in Charlotte. That was the last time I tried to do anything on the court. I didn’t feel worse than that day, so I just gave it a shot, see what happens and you saw what happened.”
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