RJ Barrett Had More Respect for 'Special' Trae Young After Treatment from Knicks Fans

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVApril 22, 2022

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 16: RJ Barrett #9 of the New York Knicks guards Trae Young #11 of the Atlanta Hawks during the third quarter of the preseason game at Madison Square Garden on October 16, 2019 in New York City. 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. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Sarah Stier/Getty Images

New York Knicks forward RJ Barrett said he gained respect for Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young after watching him handle the Madison Square Garden fans during last year's playoff series.

Barrett explained Friday on The Old Man and the Three podcast that Knicks supporters were pretty "brutal" toward Young, who thrived in the villain role as Atlanta eliminated New York in five games (2:55 mark of video).

"I feel like my respect level for him grew after how well he played. As a player, he's special," Barrett said. "... New York and Philly are just two places where it's not really fun if you wanna go play there if you're not mentally strong. Those two places are gonna be tough."

Young averaged 29.2 points, 9.8 assists and 2.8 threes per game in the 2021 series. He scored 36 points in 41 minutes on the road at MSG in Game 5 to end the Knicks' season in front of their home fans.

"I know where we are. I know it's a bunch of shows around this city," Young told reporters about his decision to take a bow at center court after that performance. "And I know what they do when the show is over."

In September, he tapped back into the villain role by appearing at WWE's SmackDown telecast at MSG, much to the dismay of the New York faithful:

Young's success against the Knicks carried over to the 2021-22 campaign. He averaged 35.7 points across three meetings during the campaign, including a 45-point outburst at MSG in March.

The two-time All-Star proceeded to guide Atlanta to wins over the Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers in the play-in tournament to earn a playoff berth. The Knicks didn't reach this year's postseason.

Young and Co. trail the top-seeded Miami Heat 2-0 as the first-round series shifts to Atlanta for Game 3 on Friday night.