RJ Barrett
(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The New York Knicks won their first preseason game against the Wizards, in part because of RJ Barrett’s play. David Fizdale was impressed.

Geoffrey Campbell

“That’s a player,” said New York Knicks head coach David Fizdale when asked about RJ Barrett’s performance.

Via Ian Begley of SNY, Fizdale was impressed with Barrett’s preseason debut as the Knicks beat the Washington Wizards 104-99.

The 19-year old out of the Duke played a key role in his team’s victory as he put his earlier struggles behind him, scoring 14 of his 17 points in the second half, including two clutch free-throws towards the end of the game.

But the game didn’t start so well for the number three overall pick. In fact, Barrett missed his first three shots, most of them from outside the arc and wide open. Yet it was Barrett’s perseverance that impressed his coach the most.

“When you have a guy who really has belief in himself and doesn’t lose confidence, doesn’t waver. He’s always engaged in the game and he’s always going to feel like he can get it going.”

Perhaps the most encouraging part of Barrett’s night was his man-to-man defense on Bradley Beal. Barrett competed and gave up nothing easy. Coach Fizdale also hinted that Barrett may have to get used to these tough assignments as well as the high minute total. Barrett ended up playing a team-high 39 minutes.

“He’s 19 and he’s got to play. It’s the same thing I did with Kevin (Knox in his rookie season),” Fizdale said. “These guys have to play, they have to see situations, they have to feel out the game. But at the same time, I wanted to keep him out there because he was playing so well.”

Going forward it will be interesting to see how Barrett’s performance affects his playing time. Conventional wisdom will tell you that Barrett will most likely play through his ups and down, at least in part, due to his draft position and potential.

However, Fiz has also been consistent with his message about playing time earned. Couple that with having signed numerous veterans to short-term deals, it may conflict with Barrett’s development.

In the end, it’s one of the things to watch from promises to be a very interesting Knicks season.

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