After being traded to the Toronto Raptors, RJ Barrett looked back on his time with the New York Knicks in a very kind and positive way and shared his first comments as a member of the Dinosaurs while reminiscing about his past as an Original Knickerbocker with Marc J. Spears of Andscape.
It’s been just over a week since the trade that sent him and Immanuel Quickley north of the border in exchange for OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Malachi Flynn, but it has taken no time for RJ to grow comfy in his hometown.
The Canadian wing was drafted by the Knicks with the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Duke University after fellow Dukie Zion Williamson and point-guard Ja Morant went first and second overall, and he played in four-plus seasons for New York before getting traded.
The Knicks finished the 2018–19 campaign with the worst record in the Eastern Conference (17–65) and by getting the third-overall pick of the following draft they officially made Barrett the first building block of the Future Knicks along with FA signing Julius Randle.
“I helped build something in New York. When I came there we weren’t good. I left it a lot better than when it started,” Barrett claimed. “Definitely bittersweet, but I’m happy for those guys over there. They are happy about the trade they made and I wish nothing but the best for them. I grew up as a player and a person over there in New York. Those four and a half years, I will never forget.”
During his time with the Knicks, Barrett appeared in 297 games including making it to the playoffs two times, in 2021 and 2023. He left New York averaging 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.8 assists while shooting 42.2/34.2/72.0 from all three levels.
On Dec. 30, the Knicks finally moved on from the Canadian face-of-the-franchise player and traded Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to the Raptors in exchange for OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa, and Malachi Flynn. The trade, at least for the first two weeks after it went down, seems to have been beneficial for both teams and a rare case of a win-win transaction. Toronto is 3-3 since Barrett’s addition (3-2 in games RJ has played), and the Knicks have won all five games played in the OG Era.
Barrett reminisced about his childhood when talking to Spears, revealing that he was inspired by the likes of Jamaal Magloire, the first Canadian to play for the Raptors.
RJ recalled, “I loved going to the locker room and remember coming to the games. I loved watching Matty and Jack on TV every night. There are a lot of things. This is home. I liked a young DeMar [DeRozan]. A young DeMar was dunking everything. A young Terrence Ross was good. Sonny Weems played good. I got a lot of memories.”
In his initial five games with the Raptors, Barrett has averaged 21.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.4 assists. RJ sounds comfortable with the change of scenery, saying, “I’ve felt good since game one, personally, offensively... I didn’t really score the ball in a crazy way the first three games, but I’ve been efficient in trying to play the right way and help my teammates. A lot of learning going on, still learning the defensive system, trying to get better at that every day.”
Barrett and Quickley will face their old friends-now-foes from New York when the Raptors visit Madison Square Garden on Jan. 20 at the tail end of next week. Get those handkerchiefs ready, cause emotional rivers full of sad tears will be flowing.