MILWAUKEE – Durability is not an advanced metric equipment that executives flatter. But it probably should be.
If there is an area where rookie RJ Barrett has not been sufficiently advertised in an era of cargo management, it is the rookie’s ability to stay healthy and fight every night. It has had its ups and downs as the third election in the NBA draft, but it never ceases to be difficult.
As the season reaches half the mark of 41 games with the Bucks rematch on Tuesday at the Fiserv Forum, Barrett has missed only one game, due to an upper respiratory infection.
He will play his 40th game on Tuesday and has shown no signs of slowing down. Barrett was key in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s return victory over Miami with great energy, robust defense and free throw marks.
“It happened fast,” Barrett said Tuesday morning. “I’ve always been a guy who has played all season. I’ve been fortunate not to hurt myself and be there every night. I’m proud of that. I guess my body is used to spending the season. I feel like I’m mentally prepared for it. . I’m fine right now. “
Barrett’s health is even more remarkable considering that Duke’s former teammate Zion Williamson has not yet made his regular season debut. Last season at Duke, Williamson fell with a knee injury and Barrett carried the charge through a spell.
Knicks coach Mike Miller sees Barrett come instead of falling, getting a second boost. His defense has been stellar, his engine at full speed. Barrett is shooting only 39.5 percent, but makes up for it with rare intangibles for a 19-year-old.
“I see it grow,” Miller said. “Everything he is doing tends up. His energy, defense, everything tends up. I do not see (a wall of rookies) at all. He is very unique with his approach, with his resistance, how he prepares for each game. It is very mature with his approach. “
Sometimes, always being healthy and present is half the battle of the NBA, even if it occurs in the middle of rocky seas. Barrett, averaging 14.1 points and 5.2 rebounds, could be said to have been his worst rookie of his rookie year in the previous meeting against Milwaukee in early December when the Knicks were defeated by 44 points.
In that game, Barrett went 0 to 9 from the field, finishing with two points and an assist in just under 20 minutes. After the contest, Barrett said his first homecoming may have reached him.
“I learned that every game is different,” Barrett said. “You could play in a team and have a terrible game and the next time you play you will have the best game of your career. Each game is different and is a new opportunity every day. “
His percentage of free throws increased to 59.8 percent after falling as low as 54 percent last month. In the last six games, Barrett has achieved 30 of 39 healthier free throws.
“I’ve been working more on that,” Barrett said. “I’ve always had confidence. As I learn the league and I feel more comfortable playing game, it’s falling. I was always sure that I knew I could do it.”
More for vain reasons, Barrett put on a thick headband in Miami’s victory. It was the first time he had worn a headband since he was 14 years old and he did it because he needed a haircut.
Barrett would wear the headband with the NBA logo in front of the Bucks, since his haircut will not occur until Wednesday.
“If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” Barrett said.
PG Frank Ntilikina was going to miss his second consecutive game with a groin strain. A distension in the groin cost him much of the second part of last season. Marcus Morris also missed his fifth consecutive game with a neck injury and did not travel.
Ntilikina and Morris, possibly the two best defenders of the Knicks, missed that fateful defeat in Milwaukee. “Thank you for mentioning that,” Miller said. Miller was not the head coach then and the defeat helped David Fizdale cost his job.
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