INDIANAPOLIS — Tom Thibodeau thinks he has a solution to RJ Barrett’s chronically slow starts.
“He’s staying with me next summer, so he’ll be fine,” the Knicks coach joked.
Thibodeau and the Knicks can laugh about it now, as Barrett appears to have turned the corner after a rough first month of the season. He’s been a big part of the Knicks’ recent turnaround, averaging 21.1 points on 39.7 percent 3-point shooting, 6.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists in his last 12 games, eight of which the Knicks have won. Compare that to his numbers before this stretch: 25.2 percent from distance, 18.5 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Barrett doesn’t have an explanation for why he’s starting seasons so slowly. He dismissed the notion that there was undue pressure from the four-year, $107 million contract extension he signed in the offseason and insisted he doesn’t do anything early in the season versus later on the schedule. Due to ongoing contract negotiations, Barrett didn’t play with Team Canada over the summer, but he didn’t use that as an excuse.
“At the end of the day, you gotta play basketball, man,” he said. “I was still training.”
During his lowest point, when he went through a rough turn in November, Barrett didn’t let it affect him on the outside. He spoke confidently that it would eventually translate and encouraged teams to play for him because he would make them pay along the way.
“He doesn’t get rattled, he keeps going,” Thibodeau said. “So it’s a good mindset to have. I think he’ll get there. The more times he goes through it, he’ll rev up the engine and be ready to go.”
As for Thibodeau’s idea, Barrett shot it down in game fashion.
“We [would] watch a movie all day [if that happened],” he said.
The Knicks’ 6-game winning streak is the longest in the NBA. They also have the second-best road winning percentage (.600) in the entire league behind the Celtics. The surprising Pacers (15-15) will be a test, particularly at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, where they are 9-6.