Knicks' RJ Barrett Sees NBA Teams Have 'A Different Level of Respect' Now for NYK

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 15, 2021

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 7: RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks smiles during the game against the Phoenix Suns on May 7, 2021 at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

New York Knicks shooting guard RJ Barrett said Friday the perception of the franchise has changed since he was selected with the third overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.

Barrett explained on ESPN Radio's The Michael Kay Show (via Peter Botte of the New York Post) opponents have started to show more "respect" for the Knicks this season.

"Most definitely, you can see there's a different level of respect," Barrett said. "Teams have to come in and bring their best, teams have to come in and play hard. Most definitely, you can tell that. We have a really good record at home, at the Garden, with our fans, and it's really tough to come in there and get a win. So you definitely can see that teams respect us a lot more."

The Knicks have posted a 39-31 record to clinch their first playoff berth since the 2012-13 season, and they've gone 23-11 at Madison Square Garden.

Barrett added he is confident the team's home record would have been even stronger if fans were allowed at "The World's Most Famous Arena" at full capacity for the entire campaign.

"Man, I think we would've had an even better record than we do right now," he said. "Those fans at the Garden really get you going, it's really an incredible place. The Mecca of Basketball, best arena I've ever played in. I love the Garden and I hope that I'm here for the rest of my career."

The 20-year-old Duke product has played a key role in the Knicks' success as he's enjoyed a sizable statistical jump in his second NBA season. He's averaged 17.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists while shooting 39.8 percent from three-point range in 70 games.

"I think I've shown the world this year that I can shoot, that I can make the shots and space the floor for my teammates," Barrett said. "But this is only Year 2. I'm only 20 years old. I've got a lot more to do. ... I'm excited to continue this work in the offseason and come back even better."

His improvement combined with an All-Star campaign from Julius Randle has transformed New York into a threat in the Eastern Conference, and the Knicks could be one more star and a little depth away from becoming a championship contender in the coming years.

That's music to the ears of the diehard Knicks fanbase, which endured seven straight years with at least 45 losses, including a dreadful 17-65 record in both 2014-15 and 2018-19.

New York wraps up the regular season with home games Saturday and Sunday against the Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics, respectively.