Ian Begley, SNY.tv | Twitter |
RJ Barrett says he's taking some important lessons from The Last Dance, ESPN's 10-part documentary on Michael Jordan.
"I kind of grew up after all this happened. But for me, it's cool to be able to listen to Mike speak and hear how he thinks," Barrett said in an interview on SportsCenter with Scott Van Pelt that aired Monday night. "'Cause to me, he was kind of this machine. So to see, whether it's how he came into a franchise and completely changed the culture, or his leadership abilities, his work ethic -- I'm soaking it all in."
Barrett was born in 2000. So he didn't see any of Jordan's six NBA titles. But he says his father, former St. John's star Rowan Barrett, told him to study Jordan growing up.
"Jordan was always my dad's favorite player,'' Barrett said. "So my dad, growing up, every day he would be like, 'RJ, watch Michael Jordan. Watch what he does. That man was a killer. Watch him all the time.'"
The documentary, which ended Sunday, helped Barrett better understand Jordan's impact on the game.
"I guess I didn't really understand Jordan fully. I think I have a better picture now,'' Barrett said. "He had to go up against 'The Bad Boys.' They had 'Jordan Rules.' He had to go completely change his body and do many different things. I'm not taking anything away from Kobe [Bryant] and LeBron [James], but he kind of changed the NBA in a way, too."
Barrett, who has been in Orlando while the NBA season is suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, has averaged 14.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and one steal in 56 games as a rookie.
The Knicks hope that Barrett can be a driving force in leading them back to prominence and -- as Barrett saw in The Last Dance with Jordan and the Bulls -- help them build a winning culture.
The club has lost at least 50 games each of the last five seasons and was likely on the way to another 50-plus-loss season before the NBA suspended play.
Barrett, 19, offered plenty of evidence to show that he can be an impactful player on both ends of the floor as a rookie. But he experienced plenty of turnovers in his first season as a Knick. His head coach (David Fizdale) and team president (Steve Mills) both lost their jobs.
The club, under new team president Leon Rose, hopes to have more stability going forward. New York has a bevy of first-round picks and salary cap flexibility going forward, so it will have the opportunity to continue adding talent to the young core led by Barrett.
Barrett said in the SportsCenter interview that he's been staying active by working out and playing with a few friends on a basket in his driveway in Florida. Most Knicks have left New York since the season was suspended.
"I actually have some of my closest friends with me and we work out every day. Just trying to stay active," Barrett said. "…Whether we have to hoop in the driveway (laughs). We gotta stay active, going at it in the driveway. So that's what we're doing."
When asked in the interview to weigh in on the debate over whether Jordan is the greatest player in NBA history, Barrett said, "I've always been a LeBron fan. LeBron's always been my favorite player growing up. But just in terms of -- I don't really know the comparisons -- but from what I'm seeing right now with Jordan, it's tough to say otherwise."