RJ Barrett #9 and Cam Reddish #21 of the Knicks...

RJ Barrett #9 and Cam Reddish #21 of the Knicks converse on the bench against the Atlanta Hawks during the second half at State Farm Arena on January 15, 2022 in Atlanta. Credit: Getty Images/Kevin C. Cox

ATLANTA — Cam Reddish had been through a whirlwind of travel and emotion — traded from the Atlanta Hawks to the Knicks on Thursday, flying to New York for his physical and almost immediately hopping on a plane back to Atlanta with the Knicks to watch his new team face his old one, all in a span of a little more than 48 hours.

As he sat at a podium in the bowels of State Farm Arena late Saturday night after the Knicks’ win over the Hawks, he was asked to sum up what he had achieved in his 2 1⁄2 seasons in Atlanta since being drafted with the No. 10 overall pick by the Hawks.

"Not much," he said, an honest summation of the puzzling performance that had prompted the Hawks to go along with his wish to be traded. "It’s been a roller coaster. I’ve learned a lot. It’s a big learning experience and I’m ready for the next step.

"Honestly, I didn’t know what was going on. I literally woke up to it. I got to get to New York. It was overwhelming a little bit. There’s a lot going on. I think I’m here for a reason, so I’m just going to take advantage of the opportunity and have fun with it."

The next step is as uncertain as the others he has taken since leaving Duke after his freshman year along with RJ Barrett, his college teammate and now a teammate with the Knicks. The two were regarded as the two best prospects coming out of high school, and they united for a season at Duke with Zion Williamson before all three became lottery picks.

But Reddish never panned out in Atlanta, and on a roster crowded with talent at the wing positions, he wanted a fresh start. He will get that in New York, although he joins a team crowded at those spots, too. He currently is sidelined by a sprained ankle but is happy to start anew.

Reddish, 22, was averaging 11.9 points in 23.4 minutes per game for the Hawks. His primary skill entering the NBA was his shooting, but that has not translated yet. He has career marks of 38.5% overall and 32.9% from beyond the arc.

In Atlanta, he struggled for playing time not just with the other players but with a series of injuries that limited him last season. Nevertheless, Hawks coach Nate McMillan compared him to an elite talent he’d worked with before.

"I really like Cam," McMillan said. "I’ve only been with him probably a year and a half — I came here last year as an assistant. Just seeing him and working with him the first time, I saw the potential, I saw a lot of potential in Cam. He and I had many conversations of my vision of what I thought he could be.

"I had the opportunity to coach Paul George — same type of body, same type of game, the ability to score, be a two-way player. Those are things I always talked to him about. He has a ton of potential."

"This year, he talked to us during the summer that he wanted to go somewhere else. It was tough on him, to come in, and he was a professional. He was a pro. He didn’t do anything through the media. He came in. He tried to work. A lot of you guys were asking why he wasn’t in the rotation or why we weren’t doing certain things. We knew this was something — he probably wasn’t going to end the season with us. Unfortunate. He has a lot of talent. Great kid. I wish him well."

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk agreed that there is All-Star potential in Reddish and noted that he wouldn’t be surprised if he realizes that potential. It just wasn’t going to happen with Atlanta.

"I feel like I can be a star," Reddish said. "I feel like I could be a legit star. That’s what I’m working to be. It’s pretty simple. I think I’m still on track. I’ll continue to put the work in. Like I said, no love lost. I know how it goes. But I think I’m still there for sure."

He appreciated the comparison to George but had a simpler goal for himself. "Man, I love being Cam Reddish, to be honest with you," he said. "But I do really like Paul George’s game. I do see where the similarities come from. Much respect to PG, but I love being me."

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