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Notes from Knicks practice, 12/20/20: High praise for RJ Barrett

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Thibs clearly loves the kid.

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Knicks practiced Sunday — though I’m not sure why they even need to practice, since they are clearly elite following their dominating 3-1 preseason.

Ah, but lest you think Tom Thibodeau is satisficed with preseason dominance, rest assured, he is not.

Much of the attention has been focused on rookie guard Immanuel Quickley in recent days, but we probably shouldn’t forget the emergence of second-year man RJ Barrett as the Knicks’ loadstar. Last year RJ was notoriously inefficient with his shooting, but he led the Knicks during preseason with 17.8 points per game on a sterling 50.8% shooting.

Thibs was abnormally effusive in his praise of RJ.

“I just thought [RJ’s] rim reads were terrific. His all-round play. His ball pressure [on defense] got a lot better as time went on. Offensively he scored a number of different ways — transition, cutting without the ball, off the dribble, catch and shoot.’’

Leading the team by example in practice? Playing smart, disciplined ball on offense and defense? I don’t know who’s more excited: Knicks fans or Thibs himself?

RJ dominated at the rim (70% shooting), the free-throw line (86.7%) and even a bit in mid-range (3-5), though he struggled from beyond the arc. He talked a bit about his process, according to Marc Berman.

“I was working with Drew Hanlen over the summer, we changed it up a little bit, tweaked a couple of things. It’s been good so far. We’ve just got to keep working on it, get reps.”

If RJ’s three-point shooting picks up to even slightly below-average, we could be looking at a beastly second season. Wouldn’t it be something if, after decades of Knicks youngsters regressing as sophomores, we finally saw one break through to stardom? I’d certainly enjoy that.