Knicks guard RJ Barrett jumps above Pistons guard Delon Wright for...

Knicks guard RJ Barrett jumps above Pistons guard Delon Wright for a basket during the second half of an NBA game on Sunday in Detroit. Credit: AP/Duane Burleson

Tom Thibodeau’s young Knicks got a dose of reality Sunday night, coming face-to-face with many of their flaws and weaknesses as they fell to the Detroit Pistons in their second preseason game.

The Knicks continued to struggle with the problems that were evident last season — mediocre defense, subpar playmaking and an inability to live outside the three-point line, where the game has shifted in recent years. Maybe the one bright spot was the play of last year’s lottery pick, RJ Barrett.

On Instagram on Monday, Barrett posted an ad he’s featured in for the Knicks’ new season — working on his shooting late at night as a security guard falls asleep while waiting out the workout. Is there any truth in the advertising? Time will tell, but the Knicks had better hope so.

They need players to build around under Thibodeau, and Barrett remains the best chance. He is just 20 years old, but his rookie season did not project stardom. He was unable to secure a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie first or second teams after being taken third overall behind Zion Williamson and Ja Morant.

After starting the preseason by missing his first six shots Friday night, he recovered to finish 7-for-16 and score 15 points in a win. On Sunday, he shot 10-for-17 and led the Knicks with 25 points.

"It’s a little slower," Barrett said of entering his second season. His rookie campaign was cut short when the season was halted on March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

One part of the defensive scheme opponents may use against the Knicks is to pack the paint and let them shoot. They have struggled from outside the arc, shooting 5-for-23 Friday and 8-for-33 Sunday. Reggie Bullock was 1-for-7 from three-point range Sunday and Obi Toppin was 1-for-6.

Barrett has been a part of that, going 0-for-4 Friday and 1-for-5 Sunday from long range. The 25 points he finished with certainly was something to grow on, but the Knicks also need someone to pose a threat and space the floor. After seeing the Knicks’ struggles Friday, the Pistons went to a zone defense at times and dared the Knicks to shoot.

"Yeah, I’m not worried about it," Barrett said. "I’ve just got to play basketball. If the shot’s there, take it. Like I said, I’ve been trying to make the right read, the right plays. I’m not worried about it at all."

Said Thibodeau, "We look at all the shots that we take and so when the defense does collapse and you kick it out and you make the proper rim read, those are rhythm shots. So I think we made five threes in the first game. We made eight [Sunday]. When you see the zone, you’re going to get more threes. It’s something we have to continue to work on. I think we have guys that are capable of making [threes] and we’re going to continue to work on it."

Notes & quotes: The Knicks will open their home preseason schedule Wednesday against the Cavaliers. They announced that no media will be allowed into either of the upcoming preseason games, citing COVID-19 risks and the safety of staff members. Fans already are banned from attending because of New York State regulations. The media move is an option chosen by the team, one of just two to make this decision.


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