No Knick was hotter than RJ Barrett at the start of the season.
Barrett was absolutely on fire through his first seven games, averaging a career-high 22.6 points while making 50% of his three- pointers. To give you some perspective Stephen Curry was the only other player in the NBA at the time to average more than 22 points per game while hitting more than 45% of his threes.
It really seemed as if the 23-year-old Barrett was headed for a breakout year. And then, his head started to hurt. Really hurt.
Barrett missed three straight games with a migraine so painful that he described it as something “he wouldn’t wish on anybody.”
Barrett has no idea what caused the migraines, which he never had before. He acknowledges, however, that he has struggled since returning to play after the three games off.
Heading into Thursday night’s game against the Pistons at Madison Square Garden, Barrett was averaging 14.4 points and making 30% of his three-pointers (6-for-20) in the last five games since returning to the lineup. And it’s not like he was showing signs of slowly getting better as his most recent game, a 24-point win over Charlotte on Tuesday, was his worst shooting game overall. Barrett shot 3-for-13 overall, including 1-for-4 from beyond the arc, to finish with 16 points.
“I didn’t pick up where I left off,” Barrett said when asked about his recent struggles. “That’s OK. Honestly, this was going to happen at some point during the season, whether I got sick or not.”
Barrett is right that it was unreal to continue to expect him to be a 50% three-point shooter for the entire season. He was going to cool off at some point, headaches or not.
Still, it was thrilling for Knicks fans to see the player the team took with the No. 3 overall pick in 2019 take a giant step forward at the start of the season, especially since it followed his uneven performance last year when he shot a career-worst 31% from three-point range.
Can Barrett, who is in the first year of a four-year, $107 million contract extension that he signed in 2022, get back to where he was at the start of this season? It sounds like that’s the goal.
“So, I’m just doing what I do all the time, and working my way out of it,” Barrett said. “I’m not worried.”
Neither is Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau.
“It's just sometimes that happens,” Thibodeau said when asked about a player struggling. “He was in a good rhythm and then he's trying to find his way again. He'll get there. We have a lot of confidence in him. Usually if you can get a few easy baskets you can get going again . . . The easy baskets are important to our team.”
Randle, who struggled at the beginning of the season, has 23.4 points and 10.0 rebounds in his last 11 games. In the Knicks' win over Charlotte Tuesday, Randle paired 25 points with 20 rebounds.
“It’s probably just health,” Thibodeau said of Randle. “When you come off of surgery, it’s gonna take you a little bit of time, because his routine in the summer was different….We anticipated that there would be some rust in the beginning. He’s gotten better as it’s gone along.”
Now, Barrett is hoping to do the same.