Third-year Knicks guard and 2019 lottery pick RJ Barrett takes a shot at some Q&A with Post columnist Steve Serby.
Q: What would you rather be, a role model or a star?
A: I don’t see why you can’t be both.
Q: What is it about RJ Barrett that makes him think that one day he might become a star?
A: I think that’s just what I was born to be. There’s something inside me that I know that I’m destined for greatness, I know that I’m destined for more. I think the work ethic that my family has instilled in me, it’s always gonna give me a chance to get better, it’s always gonna give me a chance to prove and show who I am. I’m very competitive, so I think all those things together, somehow, some way I just know that I’m gonna make it.
Q: Why do you love playing on the big New York stage so much?
A: I love the bright lights, I love the fans. This is the Mecca of basketball, there’s no better place to be, and I definitely embrace that.
Q: Why is New York City so in love with the Knicks?
A: It’s New York’s team. Been there forever. There’s a lot of New Yorkers, and I know that it runs deep to like, when Clyde [Frazier] and them were winning championships, when Patrick Ewing and them were playing well. People’s fathers and grandfathers and just generations of people that have been in love with the Knicks. I know my grandfather, he would make me watch old Knick games all the time.
Q: Which guys did you like?
A: I watched a lot of John Starks and Patrick Ewing with my grandfather.
Q: Who was his favorite?
A: He loved John Starks, just ’cause he was just a tough, scrappy guard that was able to really work hard, and that’s kind of what New York is, kind of New York’s personality.
Q: Why should Knicks fans love this current Knicks team?
A: I think Knick fans should love this team ’cause every time we go out there on the court, we’re gonna give you guys a show. And we’re gonna give everything we got.
Q: Do you remember Kemba Walker’s 2011 Final Four run at UConn?
A: Man! Who doesn’t remember that? I think even before the tournament run, just him being in the Garden [in the Big East Tournament], having that crossover, that step-back for the game [against Pittsburgh], that’s a shot that everybody remembered for a long time.
Q: What have you learned about Kemba as a teammate?
A:. He’s a great person, he’s a great human being overall. We all really get along with him. He’s really not about himself, he really wants the whole team succeeding, no matter who it is, no matter who scores or whatever, he’s cheering the loudest. That’s great to know.
Q: What specifically does he add to the team?
A: Leadership … experience … positive voice that a team could really get behind. He’s the floor general. Whenever we have him out there on the court, we’re very confident in him.
Q: How does Julius Randle lead?
A: He dominates. He dominates literally every area of the game, whether you need him to get a triple-double, need him to get 10 assists, need him to get 16 rebounds, 30 points, he’ll do that. He’ll do whatever it is. He has such a motor and a great work ethic that he really sets the standard for our team.
Q: Describe Obi Toppin’s future.
A: You can definitely tell he’s getting more comfortable and he’s been putting in the work, so we’re very excited for him.
Q: Immanuel Quickley?
A: Quick has to be the guy that’s in the gym the most out of everybody. His game will speak for itself.
Q: Evan Fournier?
A: I’ve watched Ev a lot growing up. He really knows how to play the game of basketball. If anyone watched the Olympic run that he just had with France, he can really hoop, and that’s something that we need on this team. He’s another weapon that the defense has to focus on.
Q: Derrick Rose?
A: MVP. He’s really important. And to have Kemba and Derrick Rose as the point guards on our team is something very special. D-Rose has been through a lot in his career, so for him to still be here all these years later and to be really, really good at the game of basketball still, it’s amazing.
Q: MVP, is that what you call him?
A: (Laugh) I always let him know that he’s the MVP from time to time. That’s my guy, man.
Q: Taj Gibson?
A: OG! OG’s very important to this team, everybody loves OG. He comes in and he just works hard every day. He doesn’t care if he plays, if he doesn’t play, he’s just for the team. He’s one of the best teammates I ever had. He’s been taking care of me since the first day I got into the league, so definitely appreciate the OG.
Q: It sounds like a very together team.
A: Very together. No egos, everybody gets along. That’s very rare.
Q:. Does it remind you of your Duke teams?
A: Something like that, very talented group, and we’re all very together, so it’s a lot of fun.
Q: How does coach Tom Thibodeau motivate?
A: Thibs is good because you know what you’re gonna get from him every day. We’re a very disciplined team, and I think that gives us an advantage against some teams.
Q: Is your mentality different now than it was as a rookie, or even last year?
A: I wouldn’t say mindset is too different. I think my mindset has always been the same in terms of when I’m on the floor and the type of player that I want to be. I’ve had a couple of years to really put in the work and really get used to the NBA game.
Q: So what is your mindset?
A: My mindset is just every time I go out on the court just be a killer, and do whatever I can to help the team win.
Q: Thibs talks about playing with an edge. What does that mean?
A: Playing with an edge is big-time. A lot of times the harder-playing team wins. Everybody is a good player in the NBA, so whoever plays harder normally wins, that’s why coming in with that edge is so important.
Q: Are you more vocal as a leader?
A: I’ve been trying to talk more and be more vocal this year. Year 3, starting to get more comfortable with stuff like that. But we have a lot of great vets, I’m like a sponge, I’m soaking everything up, so it’s been a lot of fun.
Q: Where do you think you’ve made the biggest strides from a year ago?
A: Just in my 3-point shooting. All the reps and everything that I’ve done, being able to now translate that to the game has been huge.
Q: How beneficial can last year’s playoff experience be for this team?
A: Some of us know what it was like being bounced out that first round last year, and it wasn’t a good feeling. So everything we do every day, all our focus is to be better than we were last year.
Q: Did it take you a little while to get over?
A: It was definitely a heartbreaking one, for sure. But I think no one even thought that we were gonna be in the position that we were gonna be in last year, so now it’s just about striving to get better and get out of the first round.
Q: How far can this team go?
A: This team can go as far as it wants to. If we do the things that we know we have to do to win, then we’ll be successful.
Q: What specifically has made Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski great?
A: I think one, the way he could just adjust with the times, just adjust to the way the game of basketball is being played. But also, he cares about his players. He wants all his players to really star in their roles, and to be the best that they could possibly be, and he puts his players in the position to do that.
Q: What was the most memorable speech he gave?
A: Honestly, I just remember him talking a lot to me, personally, just about being the best player that I could be. How if I come to Duke, he would definitely help me along that path, and how much he wanted me to come to the school, and that was big-time for me, having such a great coach like Coach K tell you that he wants you to be a part of his program. It was special, and to just see how he really made me, Cam [Reddish] and Zion [Williamson] and Tre [Jones], how he made all that work.
Q: Knowing him as you do, what do you think his emotions are as he begins this last season?
A: I think he’s happy with everything that he’s been able to do for the game. I think he wants to go out on a positive note.
Q: It will be a thankless task following him.
A: Oh, yeah. But [Jon] Scheyer is up to the task. I talk to Scheyer all the time, actually. That’s my guy, so … really happy to see what he’s gonna do with the program, he already has some big-time commits. One of my young boys, Dariq Whitehead, he played on my high school team, so I’m excited to see them next year, too.
Q: What is it about Coach Scheyer that gives you so much optimism?
A: He’s been a part of the program for so long. He’s kind of like an extension of Coach K now. It’s just a winning culture.
Q: Who is the best-dressed Knick?
A: Julius can definitely dress. I’m gonna put Kemba in there, too.
Q: Where do you fall?
A: I’m definitely top three.
Q: Where would Clyde fit in fashion-wise on this team?
A: Clyde’s No, 1. There’s no one close to Clyde.
Q: Describe your former Duke teammate, Mike Buckmire.
A: I love Buck, man! Buck’s one of those guys that every day he lit up the room. He just wants to help anybody out in any way he can. One of the smartest humans that I know, and just a great friend and a great guy.
Q: Describe meeting Saquon Barkley.
A: He’s a great dude. He’s really good at football. Even before I met him, I loved watching him. Our quarterback from Duke, [Daniel] Jones, he’s over there, so I love watching ’em play and I’m rooting for those guys.
Q: You are a Booster Juice guy.
A: It’s always been something that my family and I have always gone to since I was really young. It’s actually one of my dad’s favorite places he can take us all the time, especially after my games or anything … pick up a smoothie. … He was an athlete, so I guess it was a big part of his routine, so when they approached with this partnership, I jumped at it for sure.
Q: What’s your favorite smoothie?
A: My favorite smoothie is the Strawberry Sunshine.
Q: Favorite New York City things?
A: I love food (laugh), so I just love going to different restaurants in the city.
Q: Have you ever been to Carbone?
A: I have been to Carbone. That spicy rigatoni’s amazing.
Q: What do you make of this bing bong?
A: (Laugh) It’s funny. I actually enjoy it. Some of us, we actually catch ourselves saying it in the locker room.
Q: To be bing bonged, nobody knows what the hell that means, right?
A: Yeah, don’t worry about it. You don’t need to know.
Q: You know what it means?
A: Of course. Like I said, don’t worry about it (chuckle). If you’re not a part of the organization and you’re not a New Yorker, then you don’t really need to know.
Q: Any message for Knicks fans?
A: We love and appreciate ya, and we’re always gonna make you proud.