Jalen Brunson stole the spotlight on Sunday as he shot a perfect 9-of-9 from the field in Team USA’s exhibition win over Spain, but another New York Knicks player had an impressive game, too.
RJ Barrett shot 13-of-14 from the field (including 4-of-4 from three) and dropped 31 points in Canada’s impressive 113-112 overtime win over Germany. Playing against FIBA-level competition doesn’t compare to the NBA, but Barrett’s efficiency and determination to take over the game shouldn’t be overlooked. He outperformed Canadian teammate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander down the stretch.
It took Barrett a couple of games to get going in the 2023 playoffs for the Knicks, but he finished the season on a solid note. His performance was a welcome sight for fans that expected more out of him after he signed a four-year extension the summer before.
Barrett has especially struggled at the start of each season, so seeing him shine in exhibition play for Canada leading up to the start of the 2023 FIBA World Cup is encouraging.
Canada head coach Jordi Fernandez praises Knicks’ RJ Barrett
Jordi Fernandez, the associate head coach for the Kings, coaches Canada. Fernandez was in the mix when the Raptors conducted their head coach search. Although he wasn’t chosen to replace Nick Nurse in Toronto, Fernandez was selected to take over Nurse’s duty as Canada’s head coach.
Fernandez had high praise for RJ Barrett after Canada’s victory on Sunday:
"“Overall, he was outstanding. Very efficient offensively,” said Jordi Fernández, head coach of Canada’s Senior Men’s National Team. “He’s been very clean with his decision-making, running the floor and attacking the paint, so this is exactly what we needed from him. This is exactly the production we want.”"
It’s also the production that Knicks fans want to see, mainly Barrett attacking the rim. That and his midrange game are two of the things he’s worked on this summer with trainer Drew Hanlen.
New York has first and second options in Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle but needs Barrett to solidify himself as the third option. If he can stay consistent for the upcoming 82-game regular season, the Knicks should easily be able to find themselves back in the top five of the conference entering the postseason.