R.J. Barrett

Marcus Smart leaves game after collision (VIDEO); Celtics rally to beat Knicks

2 Comments

NEW YORK β€” Jayson Tatum scored 30 points, Jaylen Brown added 28 and the Boston Celtics rallied past the New York Knicks 113-104 on Sunday.

That was the good news. The bad news is Marcus Smart had to leave the game after a collision trying to take a charge on Kevin Knox. Smart was grabbing his oblique as he lay on the ground, a concern because last season he missed about a month with an injury to that area. There is no update yet on his status going forward.

Kemba Walker had 15 points and 10 assists, Enes Kanter contributed 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Brad Wanamaker also scored 11 points for Boston.

Julius Randle led the Knicks with 26 points. Dennis Smith Jr. scored 17 and R.J. Barrett had 16 for New York, which has lost six straight.

The Celtics trailed by as many as nine points in the third quarter. Kevin Knox’s long jumper put the Knicks ahead 72-63 with 7:20 left in the period, their biggest lead of the game.

The Celtics responded with an 8-1 run and pulled within 73-71 on Walker’s 3-pointer with 5:16 left.

The Knicks were still up 93-87 in the fourth, but the Celtics went on a 17-2 run to take the lead for good. Semi Ojeleye‘s 3-pointer tied the score at 95-95, Brown followed with a steal and layup, Tatum hit a free throw, and Walker and Tatum hit consecutive 3-pointers to cap the run.

Brown’s bucket with 1:39 left gave Boston its biggest lead of the game, 110-99.

The score was tied 58-58 at halftime after a back-and-forth first two quarters.

Knox finished with 11 points and Damyean Dotson added 10 for the Knicks.

Heat’s Kendrick Nunn: ‘I definitely feel like I’m the Rookie of the Year’

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Just six players have gotten drafted outside the top 10 then won Rookie of the Year:

Kendrick Nunn wants to one-up them.

Undrafted last year, Nunn spent most of last season on the Warriors’ minor-league affiliate. He signed with the Heat late last season, but didn’t play, preserving his rookie status for this season.

Now, Nunn is flourishing and eying a big goal.

Stadium:

Nunn:

I definitely feel like I’m the Rookie of the Year. It’s early, but the way I’ve been performing, definitely, I’m in the running for that. And hopefully, I continue this throughout the season and win that award.

Nunn has a good chance. He ranks second among rookies in points (16.9), third in assists (3.3) and tied for second in steals (1.3) per game. There are some holes in his all-around game, but scoring usually carries the most weight, and Nunn also has the top true shooting percentage (57.8) among the top six rookie scorers.

There’s plenty of competition – including the Grizzlies’ Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, Knicks’ R.J. Barrett, Warriors’ Eric Paschall, Heat’s Tyler Herro and Hornets’ P.J. Washington. Another undrafted player, Raptors guard Terence Davis, deserves consideration. When No. 1 pick Zion Williamson gets healthy, he’ll have a chance to get back into the race.

But Nunn has at least earned credibility to talk about himself this way.

Michael Jordan to Hornets: ‘You’re paid to play 82 games’

Brock Williams-Smith/NBAE via Getty Images
8 Comments

Michael Jordan is still upheld as the exemplar of a mythical era.

The way some people tell it, Jordan played every minute of every game, took the entire offensive burden, always defended the best opponent, never relented during the regular season then carried his team through the playoffs to a championship. Every year. And slayed a dragon, for good measure.

So, with the load-management debate raging around the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Knicks with R.J. Barrett, people want to hear from Jordan.

Magic coach Steve Clifford, who previously coached the Jordan-owned Hornets, relayed Jordan’s point of view.

Clifford, via Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Being with Michael in Charlotte, Michael used to tell them every year, you’re paid to play 82 games.

No wonder Charlotte usually misses the playoffs. (These jokes just write themselves.)

Also: Michael Jordan took two years off in his prime!

That’s not to say Jordan wasn’t tough. He absolutely was. He played all 82 games nine times, and his effort level was consistently high. He should be commended for that.

But – no matter how people romanticize a few hard fouls – the game was not as physically demanding back then. Players generally weren’t as athletic. They didn’t run and cut as quickly. They didn’t jump as high and land as hard.

Jordan was an exception – an elite athlete in any era. That’s why he shouldn’t be the standard for how to optimize other players.

The best science indicates rest is generally helpful. The 82-game schedule – especially for high-minute, high-workload players – is too long. Pushing through that isn’t the best preparation for a long playoff run, the ultimate goal of many teams.

There are drawbacks to resting players. They don’t get as many reps to develop, both individually and chemistry with teammates. A mindset of playing all 82 games can also instill a helpful edge in players.

But it just doesn’t seem those benefits are worth the cost of the wear and tear.

Of course, there’s a bigger debate. As Jordan says, players are paid based on a full schedule. Fans buy tickets to every game. TV networks buy rights to every game. Even if an individual team is optimizing its own championship chances, resting players could jeopardize the value of the overall product. The more teams that embrace rest, the larger the problem becomes. The NBA is headed toward even more of a crisis point with that tradeoff.

Thankfully for the league for now, there are still some old-school thinkers like Jordan in charge.

Knicks coach David Fizdale on R.J. Barrett’s playing time: ‘We gotta get off this load management crap’

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
4 Comments

After playing 41 minutes in the Knicks’ loss to the Kings yesterday, R.J. Barrett is averaging more than 37 minutes per game. That’s the most by a rookie through seven games in six years.

Is New York overextending the 19-year-old?

Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic:

The biggest problem with this discussion: We measure workload by only what we see. Game minutes are just one aspect. How much and how hard is Barrett practicing? What is his lifestyle like? How much does he sleep? We have such a narrow scope of the toll Barrett puts on his body.

But it’s silly to cite Sprewell’s 2001-02 season. The game has become so much more intense. Players are more athletic than ever. They run fast, accelerate and decelerate rapidly and jump high. The old-school game has been romanticized and mythologized for a few hard fouls. And yes, the style had more contact. But the physical strain on players now is far greater. Minutes are more taxing than ever.

The Knicks ought to be careful about wearing down Barrett. Maybe they’re doing that. But Fizdale’s comments don’t inspire confidence.

Knicks’ Julius Randle’s goals this season: First All-Stars, then playoffs

Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

Two seasons ago, Julius Randle broke out as a scorer with the Lakers when he stopped trying to be what everyone else wanted him to be and started just playing bully ball getting to the rim. Last season he took that to another level in New Orleans, while the Pelicans’ team fell apart around him he averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds a game.

Now he’s got a three-year, $63 million contract in New York β€” and the Knicks are counting on him to be a leading scorer for them. While R.J. Barrett develops, the Knicks are banking on Randle and Dennis Smith Jr. to go get buckets.

Randle wants to get them and more β€” he wants to be an All-Star (the Knicks’ first since Carmelo Anthony), then lead the Knicks to the playoffs. That’s what he told Stephan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

I just feel like situation and opportunity. Everything I’ve been through in the past, all the work I’ve put in in the past has prepared me for this opportunity now, Randle said. So [All-Stars] just a goal of mine. Eventually you feel like you have an opportunity. I feel like I do.

(The playoffs are) extremely important. I’m not going to sit here and talk about every day but it’s extremely important, he said. That’s what you work hard for. You talk about opportunity, this is my opportunity to be a real leader.

So I just want to make sure everybody’s connected and we get better every day. I like our team compared to a lot of other teams. We do what we need to do every day to get better, that mental focus, lock in, stay connected, I like our team.

Making the All-Star team could happen. Randle is going to put up numbers and get plenty of exposure in Madison Square Garden, and there’s space on the roster. Guys such as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embiid are All-Star locks, but the second tier of East frontcourt players β€” Blake Griffin, Khris Middleton, Nikola Vucevic β€” is one it feels like Randle could crack.

To do that, the Knicks need to find a way to win enough to make Randle look good compared to other guys trying to get in the All-Star club (Lauri Markkanen, for example).

Will that be enough wins to make the playoffs? Well… maybe just focus on the All-Star part first. To be fair, I wouldn’t want a player on my team who went into the season thinking his team had no shot at the postseason. Reality will hit Randle and the Knicks soon enough.

Before it does, at least Randle has set his goals high.